Thompson V. Oklahoma

Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815 (1988), was the first case since the moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in the United States in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a minor on grounds of "cruel and unusual punishment."

William Wayne Thompson, a 15-year-old at the time of his crime, was tried as an adult for murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death in an Oklahoma sentencing court. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma affirmed and upheld the decision.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider, inter alia, whether a sentence of death is cruel and unusual punishment for a crime committed by a 15-year-old child. The Court held, in a 5-3 decision, that Thompson's execution would violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court noted the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" as a primary rationale for the decision, though this was vehemently rejected by the dissent. The Court noted that numerous U.S. jurisdictions and all industrialized Western nations had banned the execution of minors under 16 years of age. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the dissent, and Anthony Kennedy took no part in the decision.

This case was expanded on by Roper v. Simmons 543 U.S. 551 in 2005, where the Supreme Court extended the Evolving Standards rationale to those under 18 years old.

Read more about Thompson V. OklahomaBackground, Appeals

Famous quotes containing the words oklahoma and/or thompson:

    I know only one person who ever crossed the ocean without feeling it, either spiritually or physically.... he went from Oklahoma to France and back again ... without ever getting off dry land. He remembers several places I remember too, and several French words, but he says firmly, “We must of went different ways. I don’t rightly recollect no water, ever.”
    M.F.K. Fisher (1908–1992)

    I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
    I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
    I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
    I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
    —Francis Thompson (1859–1907)