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Beyond the Death Penalty

Implications of Adolescent Development Research for the Prosecution, Defense, and Sanctioning of Youthful Offenders

By Nina W. Chernoff & Marsha L. Levick

In Roper v. Simmons the U.S. Supreme Court relied in part on studies of adolescents' decision-making capacity to hold the execution of juvenile offenders unconstitutional. The Roper decision and the underlying studies should broadly inform the prosecution and punishment of juveniles. Juveniles' diminished culpability and developmental characteristics make severe punishments inappropriate, bear on the elements of some criminal offenses, compel closer scrutiny of a juvenile's waiver of due process rights, and reinforce the importance of a separate justice system for juveniles.

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