Hairston v. State

Juvenile Law Center filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amicus Brief with the proposed brief in the Idaho Supreme Court in support of James Hairston who received the death penalty for a crime he committed as a 19-year-old.

Juvenile Law Center argued that the reasoning relied on by the United States Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons (prohibiting capital punishment for youth who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed) applies with equal force to young adults, such as James Hairston, and that legislative changes reflect an emerging national consensus that individuals under age 21 are less culpable for their criminal conduct than fully-developed adults. The brief further argued that, rather than age alone, the characteristics that typify youth—immaturity, impetuosity, susceptibility to negative peer influences, and a lack of fully-formed character—determine the class of individuals for whom the death penalty is unconstitutional.

The state filed a response in opposition to the filing of our proposed amicus brief and two other proposed amicus briefs by other advocacy organizations. The Idaho Supreme Court then denied leave to file all three amicus briefs without explanation.

The Idaho Supreme Court ultimately held that Mr. Hairston’s death sentence is constitutional and that he “had no right to consideration of the special sentencing factors applicable to juvenile offenders under the age of eighteen because he was nineteen at the time of his offense.”