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Answered: - Focus Question Should the courts treat minors the same as


Focus Question?? Should the courts treat minors the same as adults when they are accused of serious crimes?


"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
?Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Interpretation of the Eighth Amendment has long been controversial in U.S. history. What one person defines as "cruel and unusual punishment" could be acceptable to another. Opinions on that phrase can also differ depending on many factors. Examples include the circumstances of the crime and characteristics of the victims or of the criminal, like age. U.S. states have juvenile courts to address legal disputes involving minors. Some states will allow a minor accused of a serious crime to be tried as an adult. When tried as an adult, a suspect does not have the benefit of separate facilities, lighter sentences, and privacy typically given to minors. Juvenile law and policies differ from state to state.

In this case study, you will examine two Supreme Court cases related to the issue of juvenile crime. Then you will write an editorial that addresses the focus question.

Kent v. United States (1966)

Morris Kent was 16 years old when police arrested and charged him for multiple counts of burglary, robbery, and rape. The teen was already on probation in Washington D.C. for prior burglaries and theft. The prosecutor on the case wanted Kent's trial to happen in adult court. His reasons included Kent's criminal history and the serious nature of the current charges. Kent's lawyer, of course, wanted the case to stay in juvenile court. Had the judge allowed a hearing, Kent's lawyer would have argued that his client was mentally ill. He would have said this fact should be considered before determining which trial court to use. Yet the judge made the decision without holding a hearing. The adult court tried Kent and found him guilty of the charges. His sentence was 30 to 90 years in prison. In his appeal, Kent argued that the case should have stayed in juvenile court.

The Supreme Court did not agree with Morris Kent that his conviction and case should be thrown out, but it did not uphold his conviction either. It ruled that state judges could decide to try minors in adult court but emphasized that several factors must be considered before making that choice. The factors should include the seriousness of the crime as well as the suspect's age, criminal background, and mental state.

The Supreme Court did remand, or send the case back to the lower courts to review the decision to remove it from juvenile court. The justices said the juvenile court judge either did not adequately consider the factors for removal or failed to explain his reasons for the removal. They also noted the failure of other law enforcement officials to follow proper procedures in the case. The Court said that if the review determined the transfer to have been improper, Kent's conviction should be thrown out. Since by this time Kent was over 21, the juvenile court no longer had jurisdiction and could not hold a new trial. However, if the transfer was found to be proper then the adult court should review whether his case needed to be retried or the sentencing amended.

In conclusion, minors may be tried and punished as adults. However, courts must follow certain procedures and consider certain factors before sending a minor to adult court for trial.

Quote from the majority opinion in?Kent v. United States

"The statute ( Washington D.C.'s Juvenile Court Act) does not permit the Juvenile Court to determine, in isolation and without the participation or any representation of the child, the 'critically important' question whether a child will be deprived of the special protections and provisions of the Juvenile Court Act. It does not authorize the Juvenile Court, in total disregard of a motion for hearing filed by counsel, and without any hearing or statement or reasons, to decide -- as in this case -- that the child will be taken from the Receiving Home for Children and transferred to jail along with adults, and that he will be exposed to the possibility of a death sentence, instead of treatment for a maximum, in Kent's case, of five years, until he is 21."

Roper v. Simmons (2004)


You should now be familiar with two Supreme Court cases related to the Eighth Amendment and juvenile law. Now you will use what you've learned to write an extended response to the focus question. Imagine your state is having voters decide the issue of whether to allow juveniles to be tried and sentenced as adults. The local newspaper has asked students in your course to submit an article on the topic to give minors a voice in the debate. The editor explains that your audience includes voting adults who may be undecided on the issue. Your job is to write a persuasive article to convince them to your side.

Your article will be graded on content and quality. Be sure to use facts and quotes where appropriate to explain or justify your claim. Relate court cases that you have learned about to each other and refer to what you have learned in lessons. You may use this template to organize your article.

Focus Question?? Should the courts treat minors the same as adults when they are accused of serious crimes?

 


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