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This chapter examines the Supreme Court’s decision in Roper v. Simmons in which the Court considered the death penalty as applied to crimes committed by a person under the age of 18. I provide a brief summary of the scientific information that was presented to the Court in Roper, and review the dominant schools of thoughts about the relationship between capacity and children’s legal rights. Finally, I argue that the scientific validation of cultural perceptions regarding the vulnerability of adolescents does not undermine but is completely consistent with theories supporting constitutional rights for minors. This scientific validation supports both increased voice and empowerment for teenagers and procedural protections that account for their developmental limitations.

GW Paper Series

GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-113, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-113

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