(CBS/AP) The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the death penalty is unconstitutionally cruel for juvenile killers. In a 5-4 decision, the justices found that the Constitution forbids executing anyone for a crime committed before the age of 18.
The ruling ends a practice used in 19 states and tosses out death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers. It also blocks states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.
“This is by far the biggest decision of the term,” says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. “It’s a huge victory for opponents of the death penalty and a major defeat for many prosecutors around the country.”
The court had already barred the death penalty for defendants 15 years of age or younger at the time of their crimes. Tuesday’s ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.