The U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed death sentences for juvenile murderers in a bizarre 5-4 ruling authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy that held it would be too cruel for the state of Missouri to execute Christopher Simmons, now age 29, for the following crime (I’m quoting verbatim the contents of the Missourinet capital punishment website entry on the Simmons murder, which includes a photo of the blond Simmons, who belongs to no known disadvantaged ethnic miniority):

“In early September 1993, Simmons then 17, discussed with his friends, Charlie Benjamin (age 15) and John Tessmer (age 16), the possibility of committing a burglary and murdering someone. On several occasions, Simmons described the manner in which he planned to commit the crime: he would find someone to burglarize, tie the victim up, and ultimately push the victim off a bridge. Simmons assured his friends that their status as juveniles would allow them to ‘get away with it.’ Simmons apparently believed that a ‘voodoo man’ who lived in a nearby trailer park would be the best victim. Rumor had it that the voodoo man owned hotels and motels and had lots of money despite his residence in a mobile home park.

“On September 8, 1993, Simmons arranged to meet Benjamin and Tessmer at around 2:00 a.m. the following morning for the purpose of carrying out the plan. The boys met at the home of Brian Moomey, a 29-year old convicted felon who allowed neighbor teens to ‘hang out’ at his home. Tessmer met Simmons and Benjamin, but refused to go with them and returned to his own home. Simmons and Benjamin left Moomey’s and went to Shirley Crook’s house to commit a burglary.

“The two found a back window cracked open at the rear of Crook’s home. They opened the window, reached through, unlocked the back door, and entered the house. Moving through the house, Simmons turned on a hallway light. The light awakened Mrs. Crook, who was home alone. She sat up in bed and asked, ‘Who’s there?’ Simmons entered her bedroom and recognized Mrs. Crook as a woman with whom he had previously had an automobile accident. Mrs. Crook apparently recognized him as well.

“Simmons ordered Mrs. Crook out of her bed and on to the floor with Benjamin’s help. While Benjamin guarded Mrs. Crook in the bedroom, Simmons found a roll of duct tape, returned to the bedroom and bound her hands behind her back. They also taped her eyes and mouth shut. They walked Mrs. Crook from her home and placed her in the back of her mini-van. Simmons drove the can from Mrs. Crook’s home in Jefferson County to Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County.

“At the park, Simmons drove the van to a railroad trestle that spanned the Meramec River. Simmons parked the van near the railroad trestle. He and Benjamin began to unload Mrs. Crook from the van and discovered that she had freed her hands and had removed some of the duct tape from her face. Using her purse strap, the belt from her bathrobe, a towel from the back of the van, and some electrical wire found on the trestle, Simmons and Benjamin found Mrs. Crook, restraining her hands and feet and covering her head with the towel. Simmons and Benjamin walked Mrs. Crook to the railroad trestle. There, Simmons bound her hands and feet together, hog-tie fashion, with the electrical cable and covered Mrs. Crook’s face completely with duct tape. Simmons then pushed her off the railroad trestle into the river below. At the time she fell, Mrs. Crook was alive and conscious. Simmons and Benjamin then Mrs. Crook’s purse in to the woods and drove the van back to the mobile home park across from the subdivision in which she lived.

“Her body was found later that afternoon by two fishermen. Simmons was arrested the next day, September 10, at his high school.”

So–do you think Simmons deserved a break from our nation’s highest court? Kennedy sure did. In a ruling overturning a 1989 Supreme Court decision that reached exactly the opposite conclusion, Kennedy decided there was now a national consensus against the death penalty for juveniles because “society views juveniles as categorically less culpable than the average criminal.” That meant the death sentence visited on Simmons violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. And also, according to Kennedy, the International Criminal Court’s ban on death sentences for juveniles, even though the U.S. is not a member (and refuses to become one) of the International Criminal Court.

Well, I’m a member of “society” and my feelings tend to lean toward Mrs. Crook, hauled out of bed to suffer quite a death sentence herself. Not Justice Kennedy. He wrote:

“The reality that juveniles still struggle to define their identity means it is less supportable to conclude that even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile is evidence of irretrievably depraved character.”

I love that! Simmons was struggling to “define” his “identity” when he taped up Mrs. Crook and threw her over the bridge! I myself would vote with the justices who signed Antonin Scalia’s dissent, which concluded (along with the courts of Missouri) that the young man indeed had something of an “irretrievably depraved character.” Here’s how Scotusblog reports on Scalia’s opinion in Roper vs. Simmons:

“Justice Scalia, in a markedly bitter dissent, condemned every facet of the Court’s approach to the Eighth Amendment issue. He said the consensus discerned by the majority was on ‘the flimsiest of grounds,’ and he argued that the Court illegitimately had cast aside the judgment of the people’s representatives, and substituted its own proclamation of itself as ‘the sole arbiter of our nation’s moral standards.’ He also lambasted the majority for its reliance upon what he called ‘like-minded foreigners.'”

You be the judge.