The intersection of Supreme Court jurisprudence on the Eighth Amendment, felony murder, and juvenile justice supports the conclusion that it is unconstitutional to charge juveniles who did not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill with felony murder—a doctrine that allows individuals who unintentionally kill while committing a felony to be charged with murder. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that juveniles are different from adults because they lack maturity and the ability to understand the consequences of their actions. The felony murder doctrine hinges on a defendant’s anticipation of what might occur when carrying out a felony; thus, it cannot be applied to juveniles who did not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill because juveniles, unlike adults, lack the capacity to anticipate negative results from their actions. For example, when juveniles burglarize a home, they may not be able to anticipate that the situation could escalate and result in the physical harm, or even death, of the homeowner. This Note will argue that it is unconstitutional to charge juveniles who did not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill with felony murder because the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause requires defendants to be morally culpable in order to face criminal liability. Juveniles who did not kill, intend to kill, or attempt to kill lack the requisite moral culpability to be charged with felony murder.
Cameron Casey, Cruel and Unusual: Why the Eighth Amendment Bans Charging Juveniles with Felony Murder, 61 B.C. L. Rev. 2965 (2020), https://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol61/iss8/6