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June 11, 2017

"Are 18-year-olds too immature to face the death penalty?"

The question in the title of this post is part of a headline of this local Kentucky article describing an effort to extend the reach of the Supreme Court's Roper ruling. The article's headline continues with the phrase "Lexington attorney says yes." Here are excerpts from the article:

Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone will soon decide whether to exclude the death penalty for a murder defendant who was 18 when he was charged with murder and robbery.

In a 2005 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people who were younger 18 at the time of their crimes violated the federal constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments. The defense team for Travis Bredhold wants Scorsone to extend that exclusion to people 21 and younger. Bredhold, 21, was 18 when he was charged Dec. 13 with murder and robbery in the fatal shooting of Marathon gas station attendant Mukheshbhai Patel.

Police said surveillance camera footage indicates that Patel, 51, was trying to comply with a robber’s demand for cash when he was shot. He died later at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

Bredhold was “only five months and 13 days older than the limitation” established by the U.S. Supreme Court, public defender Joanne Lynch said. More importantly, Lynch said, research indicates that people’s brains don’t mature until they are in their mid-20s. The Supreme Court ruled that people who are young and immature and who are likely to be more impulsive are not as culpable as a group and shouldn’t be up for the death penalty.

Bredhold’s defense team is asking to extend the exclusion “because people under the age of 21 are almost completely like people under the age of 18. You really don’t mature until you are in your mid-20s,” Lynch said.

Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn argued during a hearing Friday that there isn’t a “national consensus” on whether to extend the death-penalty exclusion to defendants 21 and younger.

June 11, 2017 at 04:16 PM | Permalink


This defendant shot and killed the victim after he had opened the cash register and was complying with the request for the money in the till. After shooting the victim, the defendant stepped behind the counter, took the money, and left the victim on the floor, to bleed out and die. The victim was 52 years old, married and had 2 children. The entire crime was captured on security camera video, which will be shown to the jury. After leaving, the defendant stopped at another gas station down the street 2 minutes later, and used some of the stolen money to buy gas for his car, which was also captured on security camera video. After police put pics of the defendant out on local T.V. stations, he was identified to the police by his former foster parents. On Dec. 23, 2013, the defendant was taken down by police officers inside at the largest Lexington shopping mall (Fayette Mall). He had more than $600 of the stolen money in his pocket, which he was using to buy Christmas presents. The officers took him down so unexpectedly that he never got to touch the .380 pistol in his jacket pocket. The defendant was at the time also a member of the street gang the "Dirty White Boys". His Facebook page included pics of guns surrounded by stacks of case -- he was a gangster, pure and simple. His main Facebook pic was of an AK-47 with an 80 round drum magazine, which the police found when they searched his apartment. Under Kentucky law, killing someone during an armed robbery qualifies a defendant for the death penalty. The public defenders will have their hands full, trying to save this young man from the death penalty. Kentucky has executed only 5 defendants since 1953; there are only 35 people awaiting execution on Kentucky's death row.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 11, 2017 4:34:00 PM

Had the clerk been able to stop the evil predator's attack by ANY means , including death ...
1. The children would not have lost their father
2. Their mother would not have lost her spouse
3. The predator's DNA would cease to be available to contaminate the gene pool
4. An enormous amount of time and $$$$$.00 would not be spent on the predator

I'm not a fan of the death penalty , but I have no issues with predator's dying before they harm others !

Kindly submitted
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
2017 06 11 Sun 14:14/17:14

Posted by: Docile the Kind in Oregon | Jun 11, 2017 5:14:00 PM

This whole "brains don't mature before they re 21" is rubbish. Technically our brains continues to grow well into the 70s in the sense that we are capable of learning and thinking creatively. Some neuropsychiatrists believe that the brain can continue to grow indefinitely. Moreover, it is worth pointing out that developmental psychologists will tell you that moral development is fully adult by the age of nine. So the age of 21 for maturity is as arbitrary as 18.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 11, 2017 6:25:19 PM

Given that the entire first section of Kennedy's opinion in Roper was dedicated to looking at states that had prohibited the death penalty for those under 18, and that this was the foundation for the "national consensus" claim, the question would be how many death penalty states limit the death penalty to only those 21 and over. The discussion of maturity came after this "consensus" hurdle was overcome. I believe there are some 30 or so states that have the death penalty today. Of those, how many prohibit the punishment to those under 21?

Posted by: Sean | Jun 11, 2017 7:43:50 PM

Thank you, Daniel.

The Supreme Court is relying on garbage science. Young minds are actually superior to those of adults in every way. That includes a lower rate of violent crime.

Why does the Supreme Court do that? Lawyers are the stupidest people in our country. Ivy law grads are the stupidest lawyers in our country. And the Supreme Court Justices are the stupidest of Ivy law grads. Their stupidity still should not be a mitigating factor from their being impeached by Congress specifically for their decisions. Impeach the dissenters for failing to stop their stupider colleagues. Replace them with students from Life Skills Class, learning to eat with a spoon, for an immediate upgrade in the quality of decisions, and in the clarity of the writing.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 11, 2017 7:47:54 PM

Supremacy, you are getting out if the pocket so to say. You continue to beat up lawyers to no end. We've all heard it time again. Your a smart guy, stay on track and youll have better feedbacks on this site and most likely your daily encounters. What say you give it a try.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Jun 11, 2017 10:28:43 PM

Midwest. What say you Doug increases his pro-victim posts to 0.1% from 0.01%? I am repetitive because the post are drearily repetitive, false lawyer, pro-criminal lying propaganda, mostly from left wing false news left wing hate speech propaganda outlets. He should remove the word, professor. It implies an ethos of teaching all sides of a subject. He should replace it with the phrase, pro-criminal, defense lawyer advocate.

I have a lot of other things to say, especially of a technical nature, but am repetitive to stay on the subject of the posts. And the rent seeking, fraudulent nature of lawyer procedure is the sole real subject here.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 11, 2017 11:32:27 PM

"...most likely your daily encounters..." Heck no.

I can articulate in specific terms what people all strongly feel, including lawyers. They all hate the lawyer profession. Even judges have taken my side in tribunals. If the public is oppressed by this criminal cult enterprise, the lawyer is doubly so, and the ordinary judge is triply so. I can talk to any stranger, teachers, police, plumbers, government workers, business owners, and it is all the same dreary reality. They are completely hobbled in their jobs by lawyer profession quackery. They want them all dead. I want to arrest, try, and execute 25000 internal traitors to our country, in out of control insurrection against the constitution. I am the lawyers' best friend, want to save their million plus lives. They are supposed to provide the rule of law, an essential utility product.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 11, 2017 11:39:10 PM

Midwest Guy

So much for your respectful request to SC The best way to deal with people like him is shunning.


Posted by: Bruce Cunningham | Jun 12, 2017 8:59:21 AM

Somewhat relevant per curiam handed down today (6/12) by Supreme Court.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 12, 2017 9:49:27 AM

By definition, people who kill for trivial reasons are immature. The death penalty is what they need, according to the legislature.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 12, 2017 9:54:12 AM

Bruce. I am not shunning you when what you do has validity. Did you read my comment about a pharmacology expert to defend your innocent client? What he did was not the proximate cause of that girl's death. Don't you dare plea him down to any type of homicide.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 12, 2017 9:57:23 AM

This claim shows the problem with line-drawing. There is no good place to draw the line because every defendant is different and, wherever you draw the line, somebody is going to be just on one side or the other of the line.

Thanks to Miller and Montgomery, I have had to look at several old cases in which the defendant received a life without parole sentence. Some of those offenders were a month or two short of their eighteenth birthday and committed very horrendous crimes. Is it unfair that these offenders are getting parole hearing when they would have been death eligible if they were one-year older? Yes. But I am not sure that the unfair part is that an additional sixty or ninety days would make them death eligible.

In short, the better approach is what most states have done, including with offenders younger than eighteen before the Supreme Court got involved, make age a factor that the jury is expressly told to consider. Knowing that such an instruction exists, most prosecutors will think twice before seeking the death penalty against an 18-year old or a 19-year old if the rest of the evidence supporting the death penalty is weak, but will seek it if the other facts of the case strongly support a death sentence.

Posted by: tmm | Jun 12, 2017 10:43:50 AM

But, lines are drawn, including in application of criminal penalties.

Posted by: Joe | Jun 12, 2017 11:57:27 AM


Yes. The issue becomes on what foundation or what rationale are those lines to be drawn? My complaint is that too often the courts look at the field of psychology and engage in rampant selection basis: they simply pick out those nuggets of psychological insight that suits their predetermined biases and ignore any contradictory evidence. To be fair, the courts are often encouraged in this behavior by the APA and other professional bodies who seek to use their professional status to advance political causes that have little or no support within their own scientific area of expertise.

I offer no opinion on whether the age for the DP should be 14, 18, 21, or 54. Whatever the age a society picks, I don't think that psychology offers much help in resolving such line drawing exercises.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 12, 2017 12:52:08 PM


A look through Findlaw's "State Legal Ages Laws" [http://statelaws.findlaw.com/family-laws/legal-ages.html] shows that of the 50 states all except Alabama, Nebraska (both 19yrs) and Mississippi (21yrs) establish their "age of majority" to be 18. It looks like in most of the states this age is established by statute (while in some it exists under common law) which means that society, as it exists within each state and is represented through its elected officials, has picked the age. This is the age at which these 50 different "societies" have determined that an individual will be recognized as an adult and as such will enjoy the rights and privileges of adulthood. These can include the right to vote, to make end-of-life decisions, to be an organ donor, to sign a contract, to obtain medical treatment without parental consent, etc. Additionally these individuals will bear the responsibilities of adulthood, which include being tried as an adult in criminal court (as opposed to juvenile court), being sued by others under contracts signed, being eligible for jury duty registering with the Selective Service, etc.).

A line must be drawn at some temporal point to distinguish a minor from an adult and this line drawing appears to be quite democratic in that it has been done at the state-level by statute. Should the issue become salient to voters in a state they can push their elected officials to raise or lower this "age of majority," possibly to reflect underlying changes of attitude in what it means to be an adult.

The fact that 47 states establish the age of majority at 18 provides a tremendous amount of weight to a court that also draws the line at 18 with regards to a decision that deals with the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. Why this is the age that 47 states have chosen would presumably stem from a "folk-psychology" that recognizes a difference in the decision making abilities of "youth" as opposed to "adults." Psychologists are able to assist in this discussion by conducting controlled experiments using individuals of different ages for the purpose of more precisely identifying an exact age. Is 18 perfect? Of course not. Nor does it cover everyone given individual differences. But when the data is laid out the central tendency tends to reside around 18. Whether the voters in the states choose to accept this in their determination of the "age of majority" demonstrates the supremacy of the democratic power over psychological findings.

Posted by: sean | Jun 12, 2017 1:41:06 PM

"The fact that 47 states establish the age of majority at 18 provides a tremendous amount of weight to a court that also draws the line at 18 with regards to a decision that deals with the rights and responsibilities of adulthood."

The fact that 47 states establish the age of majority at 18 provides a tremendous amount of weight to the fact that the lawyers are the stupidest people in our country. They are stupid on purpose to keep superior people out of the labor market, who would wipe out their union clients in the marketplace.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 12, 2017 4:27:25 PM

I believe the court made the right decision. See my article: https://socialchangenyu.com/a-decent-proposal-exempting-eighteen-to-twenty-year-olds-from-the-death-penalty/

Posted by: Andrew Michaels | Nov 23, 2017 3:09:55 AM

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