Stanford v. Kentucky



492 U.S. 361

Stanford v. Kentucky


No. 87-5765 Argued: March 27, 1989 --- Decided: June 26, 1989 [*]
Petitioner in No. 87-5765 was approximately 17 years and 4 months old at the time he committed murder in Kentucky. A juvenile court, after conducting hearings, transferred him for trial as an adult under a state statute permitting such action as to offenders who are either charged with a Class A felony or capital crime or who are over the age of 16 and charged with a felony. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death. The State Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, rejecting petitioner's contention that he had a constitutional right to treatment in the juvenile justice system, and declaring that his age and the possibility that he might be rehabilitated were mitigating factors properly left to the jury. Petitioner in No. 87-6026, who was approximately 16 years and 6 months old when he committed murder in Missouri, was certified for trial as an adult under a state statute permitting such action against individuals between 14 and 17 years old who have committed felonies. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. The State Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting his contention that the sentence violated the Eighth Amendment.

Held: The judgments are affirmed.

JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, and IV-A, concluding that the imposition of capital punishment on an individual for a crime committed at 16 or 17 years of age does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Pp. 365-374.

(a) Whether a particular punishment violates the Eighth Amendment depends on whether it constitutes one of "those modes or acts of punishment . . . considered cruel and unusual at the time that the Bill of Rights was adopted," Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 405, or is contrary to the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101. Petitioners have not alleged that their sentences would have been considered cruel and unusual in the 18th century, and could not support such a contention, since, at that [p362] time, the common law set the rebuttable presumption of incapacity to commit felonies (which were punishable by death) at the age of 14. In accordance with this common law tradition, at least 281 offenders under 18, and 126 under 17, have been executed in this country. Pp. 368-370.

(b) In determining whether a punishment violates evolving standards of decency, this Court looks not to its own subjective conceptions, but, rather, to the conceptions of modern American society as reflected by objective evidence. E.g., Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 592. The primary and most reliable evidence of national consensus -- the pattern of federal and state laws -- fails to meet petitioner's heavy burden of proving a settled consensus against the execution of 16- and 17-year-old offenders. Of the 37 States that permit capital punishment, 15 decline to impose it on 16-year-olds and 12 on 17-year-olds. This does not establish the degree of national agreement this Court has previously thought sufficient to


No. 87-5765 Argued: March 27, 1989 --- Decided: June 26, 1989 [*]
JUSTICE SCALIA announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, and IV-A, and an opinion with respect to Parts IV-B and V, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE WHITE, and JUSTICE KENNEDY join.

These two consolidated cases require us to decide whether the imposition of capital punishment on an individual for a [p365] crime committed at 16 or 17 years of age constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.


The first case, No. 87-5765, involves the shooting death of 20-year-old Barbel Poore in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Petitioner Kevin Stanford committed the murder on January 7, 1981, when he was approximately 17 years and 4 months of age. Stanford and his accomplice repeatedly raped and sodomized Poore during and after their commission of a robbery at a gas station where she worked as an attendant. They then drove her to a secluded area near the station, where Stanford shot her pointblank in the face and then in the back of her head. The proceeds from the robbery were roughly 300 cartons of cigarettes, two gallons of fuel, and a small amount of cash. A corrections officer testified that petitioner explained the murder as follows:

"[H]e said, I had to shoot her, [she] lived next door to me and she would recognize me. . . . I guess we could have tied her up or something or beat [her up] . . . and tell her if she tells, we would kill her. . . . Then after he said that, he started laughing."

734 S.W.2d 781, 788 (Ky. 1987).

After Stanford's arrest, a Kentucky juvenile court conducted hearings to determine whether he should be transferred for trial as an adult under Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. §208.170 (Michie 1982). That statute provided that juvenile court jurisdiction could be waived and an offender tried as an adult if he was either charged with a Class A felony or capital crime, or was over 16 years of age and charged with a felony. Stressing the seriousness of petitioner's offenses and the unsuccessful attempts of the juvenile system to treat him for numerous instances of past delinquency, the juvenile court found certification for trial as an adult to be in the best interest of petitioner and the community. [p366]

Stanford was convicted of murder, first-degree sodomy, first-degree robbery, and receiving stolen property, and was sentenced to death and 45 years in prison. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, rejecting Stanford's "deman[d] that he has a constitutional right to treatment." 734 S.W.2d at 792. Finding that the record clearly demonstrated that "there was no program or treatment appropriate for the appellant in the juvenile justice system," the court held that the juvenile court did not err in certifying petitioner for trial as an adult. The court also stated that petitioner's

age and the possibility that he might be rehabilitated were mitigating factors appropriately left to the consideration of the jury that tried him.


The second case before us today, No. 87-6026, involves the stabbing death of Nancy Allen, a 26-year-old mother of two who was working behind the sales counter of the convenience store she and David Allen owned and operated in Avondale, Missouri. Petitioner Heath Wilkins committed the murder on July 27, 1985, when he was approximately 16 years and 6 months of age. The record reflects that Wilkins' plan was to rob the store and murder "whoever was behind the counter" because "a dead person can't talk." While Wilkins' accomplice, Patrick Stevens, held Allen, Wilkins stabbed her, causing her to fall to the floor. When Stevens had trouble operating the cash register, Allen spoke up to assist him, leading Wilkins to stab her three more times in her chest. Two of these wounds penetrated the victim's heart. When Allen began to beg for her life, Wilkins stabbed her four more times in the neck, opening her carotid artery. After helping themselves to liquor, cigarettes, rolling papers, and approximately $450 in cash and checks, Wilkins and Stevens left Allen to die on the floor.

Because he was roughly six months short of the age of majority for purposes of criminal prosecution, Mo.Rev.Stat. §211.021(1) (1986), Wilkins could not automatically be [p367] tried as an adult under Missouri law. Before that could happen, the juvenile court was required to terminate juvenile court jurisdiction and certify Wilkins for trial as an adult under §211.071, which permits individuals between 14 and 17 years of age who have committed felonies to be tried as adults. Relying on the "viciousness, force and violence" of the alleged crime, petitioner's maturity, and the failure of the juvenile justice system to rehabilitate him after previous delinquent acts, the juvenile court made the necessary certification.

Wilkins was charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and carrying a concealed weapon. After the court found him competent, petitioner entered guilty pleas to all charges. A punishment hearing was held, at which both the State and petitioner himself urged imposition of the death sentence. Evidence at the hearing revealed that petitioner had been in and out of juvenile facilities since the age of eight for various acts of burglary, theft, and arson, had attempted to kill his mother by putting insecticide into Tylenol capsules, and had killed several animals in his neighborhood. Although psychiatric testimony indicated that Wilkins had "personality disorders," the witnesses agreed that Wilkins was aware of his actions and could distinguish right from wrong.

Determining that the death penalty was appropriate, the trial court entered the following order:

[T]he court finds beyond reasonable doubt that the following aggravating circumstances exist:

1. The murder in the first degree was committed while the defendant was engaged in the perpetration of the felony of robbery, and

2. The murder in the first degree involved depravity of mind and that, as a result thereof, it was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman.

App. in No. 876026, p. 77. [p368] On mandatory review of Wilkins' death sentence, the Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed, rejecting the argument that the punishment violated the Eighth Amendment. 736 S.W.2d 409 (1987).

We granted certiorari in these cases, 488 U.S. 887 (1988) and 487 U.S. 1233 (1988), to decide whether the Eighth Amendment precludes the death penalty for individuals who commit crimes at 16 or 17 years of age.


The thrust of both Wilkins' and Stanford's arguments is that imposition of the death penalty on those who were juveniles when they committed their crimes falls within the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishments." Wilkins would have us define juveniles as individuals 16 years of age and under; Stanford would draw the line at 17.

Neither petitioner asserts that his sentence constitutes one of "those modes or acts of punishment that had been considered cruel and unusual at the time that the Bill of Rights was adopted." Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 405 (1986). Nor could they support such a contention. At that time, the common law set the rebuttable presumption of incapacity to commit any felony at the age of 14, and theoretically permitted capital punishment to be imposed on anyone over the age of 7. See 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *23-24; 1 M. Hale, Pleas of the Crown 24-29 (1800). See also In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 16 (1967); Streib, Death Penalty for Children: The American Experience with Capital Punishment for Crimes Committed While Under Age Eighteen, 36 Okla.L.Rev. 613, 614-615 (1983); Kean, The History of the Criminal Liability of Children, 53 L.Q.Rev. 364, 369-370 (1937). In accordance with the standards of this common law tradition, at least 281 offenders under the age of 18 have been executed in this country, and at least 126 under the age of 17. See V. Streib, Death Penalty for Juveniles 57 (1987). [p369]

Thus, petitioners are left to argue that their punishment is contrary to the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion). They are correct in asserting that this Court has "not confined the prohibition embodied in the Eighth Amendment to ‘barbarous' methods that were generally outlawed in the 18th century," but instead has interpreted the Amendment "in a flexible and dynamic manner." Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 171 (1976) (opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.). In determining what standards have "evolved," however, we have looked not to our own conceptions of decency, but to those of modern American society as a whole. [n1] As we have said,

Eighth Amendment judgments should not be, or appear to be, merely the subjective views of individual Justices; judgment should be informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent.

Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 592 (1977) (plurality opinion). See also Penry v. Lynaugh, ante at 331; Ford v. Wainwright, supra at 406; Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 788-789 (1982); Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 277-279 (1972) (BRENNAN, J., concurring). This approach is dictated both by the language of the Amendment -- which proscribes only those punishments that are both "cruel and unusual" -- and by the "deference we owe to the decisions [p370] of the state legislatures under our federal system," Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 176.


"[F]irst" among the "‘objective indicia that reflect the public attitude toward a given sanction'" are statutes passed by society's elected representatives. McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 300 (1987), quoting Gregg v. Georgia, supra, at 173. Of the 37 States whose laws permit capital punishment, 15 decline to impose it upon 16-year-old offenders and 12 decline to impose it on 17-year-old offenders. [n2] This does [p371] not establish the degree of national consensus this Court has previously thought sufficient to label a particular punishment cruel and unusual. In invalidating the death penalty for rape of an adult woman, we stressed that Georgia was the sole jurisdiction that authorized such a punishment. See Coker v. Georgia, supra, at 595-596. In striking down capital punishment for participation in a robbery in which an accomplice takes a life, we emphasized that only eight jurisdictions authorized similar punishment. Enmund v. Florida, supra, at 792. In finding that the Eighth Amendment precludes execution of the insane, and thus requires an adequate hearing on the issue of sanity, we relied upon (in addition to the common law rule) the fact that "no State in the Union" permitted such punishment. Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. at 408. And in striking down a life sentence without parole under a recidivist statute, we stressed that "[i]t appears that [petitioner] was treated more severely than he would have been in any other State." Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 300 (1983).

Since a majority of the States that permit capital punishment authorize it for crimes committed at age 16 or above, [n3] petitioners' cases are more analogous to Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987), than Coker, Enmund, Ford, and Solem. In Tison, which upheld Arizona's imposition of the death penalty for major participation in a felony with reckless indifference to human life, we noted that only 11 of those jurisdictions [p372] imposing capital punishment rejected its use in such circumstances. Id. at 154. As we noted earlier, here the number is 15 for offenders under 17, and 12 for offenders under 18. We think the same conclusion as in Tison is required in this case.

Petitioners make much of the recently enacted federal statute providing capital punishment for certain drug-related offenses, but limiting that punishment to offenders 18 and over. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub.L. 100-690, 102 Stat. 4390, §7001(1), 21 U.S.C. §848(1) (1988 ed.). That reliance is entirely misplaced. To begin with, the statute in question does not embody a judgment by the Federal Legislature that no murder is heinous enough to warrant the execution of such a youthful offender, but merely that the narrow class of offense it defines is not. The congressional judgment on the broader question, if apparent at all, is to be found in the law that permits 16- and 17-year-olds (after appropriate findings) to be tried and punished as adults for all federal offenses, including those bearing a capital penalty that is not limited to 18-year-olds. [n4] See 18 U.S.C. §5032 (1982 ed., Supp. V). Moreover, even if it were true that no [p373] federal statute permitted the execution of persons under 18, that would not remotely establish -- in the face of a substantial number of state statutes to the contrary -- a national consensus that such punishment is inhumane, any more than the absence of a federal lottery establishes a national consensus that lotteries are socially harmful. To be sure, the absence of a federal death penalty for 16- or 17-year-olds (if it existed) might be evidence that there is no national consensus in favor of such punishment. It is not the burden of Kentucky and Missouri, however, to establish a national consensus approving what their citizens have voted to do; rather, it is the "heavy burden" of petitioners, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. at 175, to establish a national consensus against it. As far as the primary and most reliable indication of consensus is concerned -- the pattern of enacted laws -- petitioners have failed to carry that burden.



Wilkins and Stanford argue, however, that even if the laws themselves do not establish a settled consensus, the application of the laws does. That contemporary society views capital punishment of 16- and 17-year-old offenders as inappropriate is demonstrated, they say, by the reluctance of juries to impose, and prosecutors to seek, such sentences. Petitioners are quite correct that a far smaller number of offenders under 18 than over 18 have been sentenced to death in this country. From 1982 through 1988, for example, out of 2,106 total death sentences, only 15 were imposed on individuals who were 16 or under when they committed their crimes, and only 30 on individuals who were 17 at the time of the crime. See Streib, Imposition of Death Sentences For Juvenile Offenses, January 1, 1982, Through April 1, 1989, p. 2 (paper for Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, April 5, 1989). And it appears that actual executions for crimes committed under age 18 accounted for only about two percent of the total number of executions that occurred between 1642 [p374] and 1986. See Streib, Death Penalty for Juveniles, at 55, 57. As Wilkins points out, the last execution of a person who committed a crime under 17 years of age occurred in 1959. These statistics, however, carry little significance. Given the undisputed fact that a far smaller percentage of capital crimes are committed by persons under 18 than over 18, the discrepancy in treatment is much less than might seem. Granted, however, that a substantial discrepancy exists, that does not establish the requisite proposition that the death sentence for offenders under 18 is categorically unacceptable to prosecutors and juries. To the contrary, it is not only possible, but overwhelmingly probable, that the very considerations which induce petitioners and their supporters to believe that death should never be imposed on offenders under 18 cause prosecutors and juries to believe that it should rarely be imposed.

This last point suggests why there is also no relevance to the laws cited by petitioners and their amici which set 18 or more as the legal age for engaging in various activities, ranging from driving to drinking alcoholic beverages to voting. It is, to begin with, absurd to think that one must be mature enough to drive carefully, to drink responsibly, or to vote intelligently, in order to be mature enough to understand that murdering another human being is profoundly wrong, and to conform one's conduct to that most minimal of all civilized standards. But even if the requisite degrees of maturity were comparable, the age statutes in question would still not be relevant. They do not represent a social judgment that all persons under the designated ages are not responsible enough to drive, to drink, or to vote, but at most a judgment that the vast majority are not. These laws set the appropriate ages for the operation of a system that makes its determinations in gross, and that does not conduct individualized maturity tests for each driver, drinker, or voter. The [p375] criminal justice system, however, does provide individualized testing. In the realm of capital punishment in particular, "individualized consideration [is] a constitutional requirement," Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 605 (1978) (opinion of Burger, C. J.) (footnote omitted); see also Zant v. Stephens, 462 U.S. 862, 879 (1983) (collecting cases), and one of the individualized mitigating factors that sentencers must be permitted to consider is the defendant's age, see Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 115-116 (1982). Twenty-nine States, including both Kentucky and Missouri, have codified this constitutional requirement in laws specifically designating the defendant's age as a mitigating factor in capital cases. [n5] Moreover, the determinations required by juvenile transfer statutes to certify a juvenile for trial as an adult ensure individualized consideration of the maturity and moral responsibility of 16- and 17-year-old offenders before they are even held to stand trial as adults. [n6] The application of this [p376] particularized system to the petitioners can be declared constitutionally inadequate only if there is a consensus, not that 17 or 18 is the age at which most persons, or even almost all persons, achieve sufficient maturity to be held fully responsible for murder; but that 17 or 18 is the age before which no one can reasonably be held fully responsible. What displays society's views on this latter point are not the ages set forth in the generalized system of driving, drinking, and voting laws cited by petitioners and their amici, but the ages at [p377] which the States permit their particularized capital punishment systems to be applied. [n7]


Having failed to establish a consensus against capital punishment for 16- and 17-year-old offenders through state and federal statutes and the behavior of prosecutors and juries, petitioners seek to demonstrate it through other indicia, including public opinion polls, the views of interest groups, and the positions adopted by various professional associations. We decline the invitation to rest constitutional law upon such uncertain foundations. A revised national consensus so broad, so clear, and so enduring as to justify a permanent prohibition upon all units of democratic government must appear in the operative acts (laws and the application of laws) that the people have approved.

We also reject petitioners' argument that we should invalidate capital punishment of 16- and 17-year-old offenders on the ground that it fails to serve the legitimate goals of penology. According to petitioners, it fails to deter because juveniles, possessing less developed cognitive skills than adults, are less likely to fear death; and it fails to exact just retribution because juveniles, being less mature and responsible, are also less morally blameworthy. In support of these claims, petitioners and their supporting amici marshall an array of [p378] socioscientific evidence concerning the psychological and emotional development of 16- and 17-year-olds.

If such evidence could conclusively establish the entire lack of deterrent effect and moral responsibility, resort to the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause would be unnecessary; the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment would invalidate these laws for lack of rational basis. See Dallas v. Stanglin, 490 U.S. 19 (1989). But as the adjective "socioscientific" suggests (and insofar as evaluation of moral responsibility is concerned perhaps the adjective "ethicoscientific" would be more apt), it is not demonstrable that no 16-year-old is "adequately responsible" or significantly deterred. It is rational, even if mistaken, to think the contrary. The battle must be fought, then, on the field of the Eighth Amendment; and, in that struggle, socioscientific, ethicoscientific, or even purely scientific evidence is not an available weapon. The punishment is either "cruel and unusual" (i.e., society has set its face against it) or it is not. The audience for these arguments, in other words, is not this Court, but the citizenry of the United States. It is they, not we, who must be persuaded. For, as we stated earlier, our job is to identify the "evolving standards of decency"; to determine, not what they should be, but what they are. We have no power under the Eighth Amendment to substitute our belief in the scientific evidence for the society's apparent skepticism. In short, we emphatically reject petitioner's suggestion that the issues in this case permit us to apply our "own informed judgment," Brief for Petitioner in No. 876026, p. 23, regarding the desirability of permitting the death penalty for crimes by 16- and 17-year-olds.

We reject the dissent's contention that our approach, by "largely return[ing] the task of defining the contours of Eighth Amendment protection to political majorities," leaves "‘[c]onstitutional doctrine [to] be formulated by the acts of those institutions which the Constitution is supposed to limit,'" post at 391, 392 (citation omitted). When this Court [p379] cast loose from the historical moorings consisting of the original application of the Eighth Amendment, it did not embark rudderless upon a wide-open sea. Rather, it limited the Amendment's extension to those practices contrary to the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. at 101 (plurality opinion) (emphasis added). It has never been thought that this was a shorthand reference to the preferences of a majority of this Court. By reaching a decision supported neither by constitutional text nor by the demonstrable current standards of our citizens, the dissent displays a failure to appreciate that "those institutions which the Constitution is supposed to limit" include the Court itself. To say, as the dissent says, that "‘it is for us ultimately to judge whether the Eighth Amendment permits imposition of the death penalty,'" post at 391 (emphasis added), quoting Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. at 797 -- and to mean that as the dissent means it, i.e., that it is for us to judge, not on the basis of what we perceive the Eighth Amendment originally prohibited, or on the basis of what we perceive the society through its democratic processes now overwhelmingly disapproves, but on the basis of what we think "proportionate" and "measurably contributory to acceptable goals of punishment" -- to say and mean that, is to replace judges of the law with a committee of philosopher-kings.

While the dissent is correct that several of our cases have engaged in so-called "proportionality" analysis, examining whether "there is a disproportion 'between the punishment imposed and the defendant's blameworthiness,'" and whether a punishment makes any "measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment," see post at 393, we have never invalidated a punishment on this basis alone. All of our cases condemning a punishment under this mode of analysis also found that the objective indicators of state laws or jury determinations evidenced a societal consensus against that penalty. See Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. at 299-300; [p380] Enmund v. Florida, supra, at 789-796; Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. at 593-597 (plurality opinion). In fact, the two methodologies blend into one another, since "proportionality" analysis itself can only be conducted on the basis of the standards set by our own society; the only alternative, once again, would be our personal preferences.

* * * *

We discern neither a historical nor a modern societal consensus forbidding the imposition of capital punishment on any person who murders at 16 or 17 years of age. Accordingly, we conclude that such punishment does not offend the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The judgments of the Supreme Court of Kentucky and the Supreme Court of Missouri are therefore


* Together with No. 87-6026, Wilkins v. Missouri, on certiorari to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

1. We emphasize that it is American conceptions of decency that are dispositive, rejecting the contention of petitioners and their various amici (accepted by the dissent, see post at 389-390) that the sentencing practices of other countries are relevant. While

[t]he practices of other nations, particularly other democracies, can be relevant to determining whether a practice uniform among our people is not merely an historical accident, but rather so "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" that it occupies a place not merely in our mores, but, text permitting, in our Constitution as well,

Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 868-869, n. 4 (1988) (SCALIA, J., dissenting), quoting Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937) (Cardozo, J.), they cannot serve to establish the first Eighth Amendment prerequisite, that the practice is accepted among our people.

2. The following States preclude capital punishment of offenders under 18: California (Cal.Penal Code Ann. §190.5 (West 1988)); Colorado (Colo.Rev.Stat. §1611-103(1)(a) (1986)); Connecticut (Conn.Gen.Stat. § 53a-46a(g)(1) (1989)); Illinois (Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38, 119-1(b) (1987)); Maryland (Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 412(f) (Supp.1988)); Nebraska (Neb.Rev.Stat. §28-105.01 (1985)); New Jersey (N.J.Stat.Ann. §2A:4A-22(a) (West 1987) and 2C:11-3(g) (West Supp.1988)); New Hampshire (N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §630: 5(XIII) (Supp. 1988)); New Mexico (N.M.Stat.Ann. §§ 28-6-1(A), 31-18-14(A) (1987)); Ohio (Ohio Rev.Code Ann. §2929.02(A) (1987)); Oregon (Ore.Rev.Stat. §§161.620 and 419.476(1) (1987)); Tennessee (Tenn.Code Ann. §§37-1-102(3), 37-1-102(4), 37-1103, 37-1-134(a)(1) (1984 and Supp. 1988)). Three more States preclude the death penalty for offenders under 17: Georgia (Ga.Code Ann. §17-9-3 (1982)); North Carolina (N.C.Gen.Stat. §14-17 (Supp. 1988)); Texas (Tex.Penal Code Ann. § 8.07(d) (Supp. 1989)).

The dissent takes issue with our failure to include, among those States evidencing a consensus against executing 16- and 17-year-old offenders, the District of Columbia and the 14 States that do not authorize capital punishment. Post at 384-385. It seems to us, however, that while the number of those jurisdictions bears upon the question whether there is a consensus against capital punishment altogether, it is quite irrelevant to the specific inquiry in this case: whether there is a settled consensus in favor of punishing offenders under 18 differently from those over 18 insofar as capital punishment is concerned. The dissent's position is rather like discerning a national consensus that wagering on cockfights is inhumane by counting within that consensus those States that bar all wagering. The issue in the present case is not whether capital punishment is thought to be desirable, but whether persons under 18 are thought to be specially exempt from it. With respect to that inquiry, it is no more logical to say that the capital punishment laws of those States which prohibit capital punishment (and thus do not address age) support the dissent's position, than it would be to say that the age-of-adult criminal responsibility laws of those same States (which do not address capital punishment) support our position.

3. The dissent again works its statistical magic by refusing to count among the States that authorize capital punishment of 16- and 17-year-old offenders those 19 States that set no minimum age in their death penalty statute, and specifically permit 16- and 17-year-olds to be sentenced as adults. Post at 385. We think that describing this position is adequate response.

4. See 10 U.S.C. § 906a (1982 ed., Supp. V) (peacetime espionage); § 918 (murder by persons subject to Uniform Code of Military Justice); 18 U.S.C. §§ 32 33, and 34 (1982 ed. and Supp. V) (destruction of aircraft, motor vehicles, or related facilities resulting in death); §116(b)(3) (1982 ed., Supp. V) (retaliatory murder of member of immediate family of law enforcement officials) (by cross reference to §1111 (1982 ed. and Supp. V)); § 351 (1982 ed. and Supp. V) (murder of Member of Congress, high-ranking executive official, or Supreme Court Justice) (by cross reference to §1111); §794 (1982 ed. and Supp. V) (espionage); §844(f) (1982 ed., Supp. V) (destruction of Government property resulting in death); §1111 (first-degree murder within federal jurisdiction); §1716 (1982 ed. and Supp. V) (mailing of injurious articles resulting in death); §1751 (assassination or kidnaping resulting in death of President or Vice President); §1992 (willful wrecking of train resulting in death); § 2113 (1982 ed. and Supp. V) (bank robbery-related murder or kidnaping); § 2381 (treason); 49 U.S.C. App. §§1472 and 1473 (1982 ed. and Supp. V) (death resulting from aircraft hijacking).

5. See Ala. Code §13A-5-51 (7) (1982); Ariz.Rev.Stat.Ann. §13703(G)(5) (Supp.1988); Ark.Code Ann. §5-4-605(4) (1987); Cal.Penal Code Ann. §190.3(i) (West 1988); Colo.Rev.Stat. §16-11-103(5)(a) (1986); Conn.Gen.Stat. §53a-46a(g)(1) (1989); Fla.Stat. §921.141(6)(g) (1987); Ind.Code § 35-50-2-9(c)(7) (1988); Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 532.025(2)(b)(8) (Baldwin 1988); La.Code Crim.Proc.Ann., Art. 905.5(f) (West 1984); Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, §413(g)(5) (1988); Miss.Code Ann. § 99-19-101(6)(g) (Supp.1988); Mo.Rev.Stat. § 565.032(3)(7) (1986); Mont.Code Ann. § 4618-304(7) (1987); Neb.Rev.Stat. §29-2523(2)(d) (1985); Nev.Rev.Stat. §200.035(6) (1987); N.H.Rev.Stat.Ann. §630: 5(II)(b)(5) (1986); N.J.Stat.Ann. §2C:11-3(c)(5)(c) (West Supp.1988); N.M.Stat.Ann. §3120A-6(I) (1987); N.C.Gen.Stat. §15A-2000(f)(7) (1988); Ohio Rev.Code Ann. §2929.04(B)(4) (1987); Ore.Rev.Stat. §163.150(1)(b)(B) (1987); 42 Pa.Cons.Stat. § 9711(e)(4) (1982); S.C.Code §16-3-20(C)(b)(9) (Supp.1988); Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-2-203(j)(7) (1982); Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-207 (2)(e) (Supp.1988); Va.Code §19.2-264.4(B)(v) (1983); Wash.Rev.Code §10.95.070(7) (Supp.1989); Wyo.Stat. § 6-2-102(j)(vii) (1988).

6. The Kentucky statute under which Stanford was certified to be tried as an adult provides in relevant part:

(3) If the court determines that probable cause exists [to believe that a person 16 years old or older committed a felony or that a person under 16 years of age committed a Class A felony or a capital offense], it shall then determine if it is in the best interest of the child and the community to order such a transfer based upon the seriousness of the alleged offense; whether the offense was against person or property, with greater weight being given to offenses against persons; the maturity of the child as determined by his environment; the child's prior record; and the prospects for adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the child by the use of procedures, services, and facilities currently available to the juvenile justice system.

Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 208.170 (Michie 1982) (repealed effective July 15, 1984).

The Missouri statute under which Wilkins was certified provides that, in determining whether to transfer a juvenile the court must consider:

(1) The seriousness of the offense alleged and whether the protection of the community requires transfer to the court of general jurisdiction;

(2) Whether the offense alleged involved viciousness, force and violence;

(3) Whether the offense alleged was against persons or property with greater weight being given to the offense against persons, especially if personal injury resulted;

(4) Whether the offense alleged is a part of a repetitive pattern of offenses which indicates that the child may be beyond rehabilitation under the juvenile code;

(5) The record and history of the child, including experience with the juvenile justice system, other courts, supervision, commitments to juvenile institutions and other placements;

(6) The sophistication and maturity of the child as determined by consideration of his home and environmental situation, emotional condition and pattern of living;

(7) The program and facilities available to the juvenile court in considering disposition; and

(8) Whether or not the child can benefit from the treatment or rehabilitative programs available to the juvenile court.

Mo.Rev.Stat. §211.071 (6) (1986).

7. The dissent believes that individualized consideration is no solution, because

the Eighth Amendment requires that a person who lacks that full degree of responsibility for his or her actions associated with adulthood not be sentenced to death,

and this absolute cannot be assured if

a juvenile offender's level of responsibility [is] taken into account only along with a host of other factors that the court or jury may decide outweigh that want of responsibility.

Post at 397. But it is equally true that individualized consideration will not absolutely assure immunity from the death penalty to the nonjuvenile who happens to be immature. If individualized consideration is constitutionally inadequate, then the only logical conclusion is that everyone is exempt from the death penalty.