The suspect in Friday’s school shooting may be considered an adult in Texas state courts, but he cannot face the death penalty, according to a 2005 federal Supreme Court ruling.
For 100 years, Texas has considered 17-year-olds to be adults when they commit crimes, according to research from The Marshall Project. And Dimitrios Pagourtzis was charged Friday as an adult with capital murder and aggravated assault on a peace officer.
But the 2005 high court ruling that bans execution of criminals younger than 18 and a 2012 ruling about juveniles facing life in prison mean that Pagourtzis could be up for parole after 40 years.
“The courts ruled based on the idea that those 17 and younger don’t have the cognitive development to appreciate right from wrong,” said Michael Radelet, a University of Colorado at Boulder sociology professor who has testified in more than 75 death-penalty cases. “Cases like this that are especially violent and an enigma make some people think they are more deserving of death, but the ruling is about the development of the juvenile brain.”
Pagourtzis sketched out plans for the grisly attack in his journal and home computer before entering Santa Fe High School in Texas where he was a student, killing 10 and wounding 13, prosecutors said.
Putting kids younger 18 to death was ruled cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and 14th amendments, according to the 5-4 Roper v. Simmons case about the fate of Christopher Simmons, sentenced to death in 1993 for throwing a woman off a bridge.
In 2012, another landmark case, Miller v. Alabama, abolished mandatory life without parole for juveniles. That means Pagourtzis could be eligible for parole after 40 years in prison.
SOURCE: Nick Penzenstadler