Commonwealth v. Bredhold

In Commonwealth v. Bredhold, the Kentucky trial court issued an order declaring Kentucky’s death penalty statute unconstitutional as applied to youth, including Travis Bredhold, who were under the age of 21 at the time of their offense. Mr. Bredhold was 18 years old. Following the order, the case was transferred directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court. Juvenile Law Center, joined by more than a dozen advocacy organizations, filed an amicus brief in the Kentucky Supreme Court in support of Mr. Bredhold and the trial court’s decision. We argued that objective indicia of evolving standards of decency and research in neuroscience require abolition of the death penalty for individuals who were under 21 years of age at the time of their offense.

The Kentucky Supreme Court vacated the trial court's ruling on procedural grounds, holding that Mr. Bredhold, and another 18-year-old and a 20-year-old whose cases were consolidated with his, lack "standing to present the issue of whether Kentucky's death penalty constitutes 'cruel and unusual' punishment under the Eighth Amendment as to defendants ages eighteen (18) to twenty-one (21) at the time of their offense" because Mr. Bredhold and the others have not yet been convicted and a jury has not yet recommended the death penalty even though the Commonwealth gave notice of its intent to seek the death penalty in each case.