Thompson v. Oklahoma (No. 86-6169)724 P.2d 780, vacated and remanded.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
487 U.S. 815
Thompson v. Oklahoma
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF OKLAHOMA
No. 86-6169 Argued: November 9, 1987 --- Decided: June 29, 1988
Petitioner, when he was 15 years old, actively participated in a brutal murder.Because petitioner was a "child" as a matter of Oklahoma law, the DistrictAttorney filed a statutory petition seeking to have him tried as an adult, whichthe trial court granted. He was then convicted and sentenced to death, and theCourt of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma affirmed.
The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded. JUSTICE STEVENS, joined by JUSTICE BRENNAN, JUSTICE MARSHALL, and JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concluded that the "cruel and unusual punishment"prohibition of theEighth Amendment, made applicable to the States bytheFourteenth Amendment, prohibits the execution of a person who was under16 years of age at the time of his or her offense. Pp. 821-838.(a) In determining whether the categoricalEighth Amendmentprohibitionapplies, this Court must be guided by the "evolving standards of decency thatmark the progress of a maturing society,"
Trop v. Dulles,
356 U.S. 86, 101, and,in so doing, must review relevant legislative enactments and jurydeterminations and consider the reasons why a civilized society may accept orreject the death penalty for a person less than 16 years old at the time of thecrime. Pp. 821-823.(b) Relevant state statutes -- particularly those of the 18 States that haveexpressly considered the question of a minimum age for imposition of the deathpenalty, and have uniformly required that the defendant have attained at leastthe age of 16 at the time of the capital offense -- support the conclusion that itwould offend civilized standards of decency to execute a person who was less