Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Study on Juveniles Tried As Adults

The New York Times today reports on a study funded by the MacArthur Foundation which finds that a significant number of younger juveniles (ages 11-15) may not have the mental capacity to stand trial--that is, they understand legal matters at roughly the same level as a mentally ill adult. One finding, however, that I doubt will receive much play is this: "Older adolescents did not perform significantly different from young adults." Since the death penalty is only available to individuals 16 and above--the group covered by the statement--this finding would seem to contradict suggestions made before the Supreme Court in recent years that 16 and 17-year-old adolescents are not sufficiently mentally developed to be tried as adults.

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