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Stanford v. Kentucky

492 U.S. 361 (1989)

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Stanford v. Kentucky

United States Supreme Court

492 U.S. 361 (1989)

Facts

The court considered two consolidated cases. In the first case, 17-year-old Kevin Stanford (defendant) robbed a gas station and repeatedly raped and sodomized the attendant before murdering her. In the second case, 16-year-old Heath Wilkins (defendant) robbed a convenience store and murdered one of the store’s owners. Stanford and Wilkins were convicted and sentenced to death. Stanford and Wilkins, along with several amici, argued that the imposition of the death penalty on 16- and 17-year-olds is cruel and unusual punishment. In support of their argument, they offered evidence that prosecutors and juries are reluctant to impose the death penalty on young offenders; that legislatures often set 18 as the minimum age to vote, drink alcohol, or drive; and that 16- and 17-year-olds are not psychologically or emotionally developed enough to be deterred by the death penalty. Stanford’s conviction was affirmed in the Kentucky Supreme Court; Wilkins’s conviction was affirmed in the Missouri Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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