Politics Note; Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, was charged Friday as an adult with capital murder and aggravated assault on a peace officer, but cannot face the death penalty, according to a 13-year-old Supreme Court decision.
According to a report by criminal justice website The Marshall Project cited by USA Today, Texas has tried 17-year-olds like Pagourtzis as adults in state courts. But the Supreme Court’s 2005 Roper v. Simmons decision found that capital punishment was a violation of the Eighth and 14th Amendment prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.
Moreover, SCOTUS ruled in 2012 that juveniles cannot face life in prison, either.
In other words, the teenager accused of killing eight students and two teachers as well as injuring 13 others could be eligible for parole around 2058, near his 57th birthday.
“The courts ruled based on the idea that those 17 and younger don’t have the cognitive development to appreciate right from wrong,” Michael Radelet, a University of Colorado at Boulder sociology professor who often testifies in death-penalty cases, told USA Today.
“Cases like this that are especially violent and an enigma make some people think they are more deserving of death,” he added, “but the ruling is about the development of the juvenile brain.”
The 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama means that he likely cannot be held without hope of parole, either.