Sample Thesis Paper
An important issue in several jurisdictions involves the statutory exclusion of some classes of offenders from death penalty eligibility. The execution of juvenile (i.e., persons below 18 years when committed crime) and mentally retarded offenders historically has inspired the greatest controversy, although the Supreme Court has partially stilled the debate by ruling that executing psychologically retarded slaughterers breaks the Eighth Amendment. The justices have balked at permitting the execution of 15-year-old murderers but have ruled that the federal Constitution allows capital punishment of offenders as young as 16. Fourteen states presently authorise that practice, and five others permit the execution of 17-year-old offenders.
Although the propriety of executing juvenile offenders has a significant normative dimension, related empirical issues—for example, psychological studies of moral and intellectual development, and even deterrence, future dangerousness, and public opinion—also may be relevant to commissions considering that issue. Hence, significant definitional and diagnostic issues will merit attention in the states that previously had not exempted mentally retarded offenders from death penalty eligibility.