University of the District of Columbia Law Review


Jamie Stevens


In 2005 the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that adult criminal courts prosecuted 23,000 cases involving defendants under the age of eighteen nationwide. 2 This means that those defendants faced conviction and sentencing in adult courts. Transfer of those under eighteen into adult criminal court has become the states' first line of defense in the fight against youth crime. However, recent Supreme Court decisions have cast doubt on the wisdom, and even the constitutionality of that approach. Roper v. Simmons held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the death penalty for anyone under eighteen years of age. 3 Graham v. Florida held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a non-homicidal non-adult offender. 4 Most recently, JD.B. v. North Carolina held that a child's age must be considered in determining whether the accused understands he or she is in custody.5 The court has begun to acknowledge that age does matter, even when the crimes have been violent.

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