By Andrew Cohen | The Marshall Project | 2 March 2015
It has been exactly ten years since the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Roper v. Simmons, a 5-4 decision that declared that the Eighth Amendment precluded the imposition of the death penalty for murderers who committed their capital crimes before they turned 18. Predictably, the justices were sharply divided about this important and new national restriction on capital punishment in America. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, cited the “susceptibility” of juveniles to “immature and irresponsible behavior.” Justice Antonin Scalia, in typically blunt tones, said in the leading dissent that the ruling made a “mockery” of the Court’s capital precedent.
Few people in U.S. know more about the Roper decision than Victor Streib, a professor of law at Ohio Northern University, who has devoted decades of his professional life to the study of capital punishment. Streib’s work was cited in Roper by Justice Kennedy, and over the past ten years, the academic has been no less diligent in watching the legacy of this important case develop, both at the Supreme Court and among lower federal and state courts.