Joining the Legal Significance of Adolescent Developmental Capacities with the Legal Rights Provided by In Re Gault

50 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2008 Last revised: 4 May 2009

See all articles by Hillary B. Farber

Hillary B. Farber

University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth

Donna M. Bishop

Northeastern University

Date Written: November 24, 2008

Abstract

Almost forty years after the United States Supreme Court decided In re Gault, the Court in Roper v. Simmons ruled that the death penalty is a disproportionate punishment for persons under the age of eighteen, in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Perhaps the most compelling reasons the Roper Court offered for its decision were those that drew upon recent scientific insights into the bio-psychosocial aspects of adolescent development to corroborate the view that juveniles are less culpable for their crimes than adults. The Court made three bold findings in distinguishing juveniles from adults: 1) "A lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults...These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions"; 2) "Juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, including peer pressure....Youth is....a time and condition of life when a person may be most susceptible to influence and to psychological damage"; and 3) "The character of a juvenile is not as well formed as that of an adult. The personality traits of juveniles are more transitory, less fixed." Although Roper will always be best known as the case that abolished the juvenile death penalty in America, the decision is at least equally noteworthy for its endorsement and application of scientific findings relating to adolescent developmental immaturity. This article considers the implications of Roper's findings for the application of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights extended to juveniles in Gault.

Suggested Citation

Farber, Hillary B. and Bishop, Donna M., Joining the Legal Significance of Adolescent Developmental Capacities with the Legal Rights Provided by In Re Gault (November 24, 2008). Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 60, No. 1, 2007, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 28-2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1306593

Hillary B. Farber (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth ( email )

333 Faunce Corner Road
North Dartmouth, MA 02747-1252
United States
508-985-1140 (Phone)

Donna M. Bishop

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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