In Roper v. Simmons, decided seven years ago, the Supreme Court held that the death penalty could never be imposed on a person under 18 years of age.
In doing so, it was in some ways merely ratifying the status quo: The number of juveniles sentenced to death in this country over the last generation was miniscule. Juries were and are more than aware of the reasons the law treats younger offenders more leniently than older ones. What the (bare) majority missed -- or more correctly, ducked -- is the fact that a one-size-fits-all rule for juveniles is no better than a one-size-fits-all rule for anyone else. Foreclosing any historically accepted punishment before one knows the facts of the case to which it is proposed to be applied is irrational. If law means anything, it means judging each case in light of the circumstances it presents.
Will the Court reconsider Roper? Probably not. Should it?
A Missouri teenager who admitted stabbing, strangling and slitting the throat of a young neighbor girl wrote in her journal on the night of the killing that it was an "ahmazing" and "pretty enjoyable" experience -- then headed off to church with a laugh....
"I just f------ killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead. I don't know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the "ohmygawd I can't do this" feeling, it's pretty enjoyable. I'm kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now...lol."
The whole appalling story is here. The victim was a nine year-old, Elizabeth Olten, whose mistake was living nearby.