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Constitutional Law: State v. Pittman. Supreme Court of South Carolina (6 pages)


Consider these facts:
“On February 15, 2005, in the state of South Carolina, Christopher Pittman fired on his two grandparents with his father’s shotgun as they lay sleeping in their beds, then set their home on fire and fled the scene in his grandfather’s truck with cash and weapons. Pittman was only 12 years old when he committed these acts. He was charged with premeditated murder and put on trial as an adult.

Pittman’s defense team argued that young Christopher was unable to know right from wrong because he was under the influence of Zoloft, an antidepressant. They argued that the fact that Christopher was a child at the time of the murders meant he did not have capacity to plan and execute premeditated murder with the same comprehension of his actions as an adult. The team further argued that the civilized reaction to a juvenile committing such actions would be to offer psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation, not retribution.

Prosecutors described Christopher as “diabolical” in his planning of the crime and said they had “no regrets” over seeking adult punishment. They argued that Pittman’s troubled youth resulted in “malice, meanness, and wickedness” and that he expressed this malice “through a .410 shotgun.” Continually, prosecutors pointed to the violent nature of the crime and painted Christopher as an individual possessed by incomprehensible wickedness and that those were grounds for convicting the young defendant of premeditated murder as an adult.

In South Carolina, there is no minimum age for a child to be tried as an adult in a murder case and the 12-member jury convicted Christopher Pittman of premeditated murder and sentenced him to 30 years in prison, the maximum sentence.

The South Carolina Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Pittman’s appeal and affirmed the 30-year conviction by a vote of 4-1

Imagine that you were a justice of the United States Supreme Court at the time and the court has granted a writ of certiorari to hear the case. Examine the facts of the case in detail and provide a written opinion with a detailed “ratio decidendi” given especially the provisions of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. You may cite, or rely on, decided case law to support or explain tour written opinion.

Also identify and provide possible arguments that could be made by ant dissenting justices against your written opinion.

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