Document Type


Publication Title

Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law



Publication Date



Children, juveniles, crime, defense, Roper v. Simmons, Erik Erikson


This Article contends that some of the case law and social science research that form the basis for the United States Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons are insufficient and outdated. The Court also relies heavily upon briefs submitted by the respondent and his amici, in lieu of providing more pertinent citations and analysis that could have enhanced and modernized the Court's arguments. The sparse and sometimes archaic sources for Roper potentially limit the opinion's precedential value. For example, the Court cites Erik Erikson's 1968 book, Identity: Youth and Crisis, to support the view that, relative to adults, juveniles have more undeveloped and unstable identities. While Erikson's influence as a psychologist is indisputable, his work reflects an outmoded psychoanalytic perspective. Furthermore, the Court does not specify which of Erikson's highly complex theories are relevant to Roper's conclusions. The shortcomings of Erikson's book and other sources cited in the opinion would be less apparent but for the Court's overall dearth of social science support. This Article concludes that despite Roper's correct result, the Court's application of interdisciplinary studies was, in part, flawed, thereby detracting from the Court's otherwise progressive direction. Ultimately, the opinion's strength derives more from its traditional legal analysis than from its application of relevant social science, an outcome the Court may not have fully intended.