Roach and Pinkerton v. United States

Case No. 9647, Inter-Am. Comm'n H.R. Res. No 3/87 (September 22, 1987)

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Roach and Pinkerton v. United States

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Case No. 9647, Inter-Am. Comm'n H.R. Res. No 3/87 (September 22, 1987)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

James Roach and Jay Pinkerton (plaintiffs) each committed capital offenses at the age of 17 and were sentenced to death in South Carolina and Texas, respectively. In the United States (defendant), there was no federal prohibition against the imposition of the death penalty on children under the age of 18. The United States forbade juvenile courts from imposing the death penalty; however, because juveniles could be tried as adults in adult criminal courts, that prohibition did not prevent the imposition of the death penalty on juveniles. Because there was no federal policy, each American state had its own rules regarding (1) the transfer of juvenile offenders to adult criminal courts; and (2) the minimum age for the imposition of the death penalty. In the United States, 13 states and the District of Columbia abolished the death penalty entirely, nine states abolished the death penalty for children under 18, and the remainder allowed children over a certain age threshold, which could be as young as 10, to be subjected to the death penalty. After exhausting all domestic appeals, Roach and Pinkerton petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), arguing that imposing the death penalty on individuals under the age of 18 violated (a) the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration); and (b) customary international law. Both Roach and Pinkerton were executed while their petitions were pending before the IACHR.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

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