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Thompson v. Oklahoma

A Question Of Age, The Consensus Of Society, Amnesty International On Capital Punishment


William Wayne Thompson


State of Oklahoma

Appellant's Claim

That Thompson was a child at the time of his crime and should not be subjected to the death penalty.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Harry F. Tepker Jr.

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

David W. Lee, Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O'Connor, John Paul Stevens (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting

William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Byron R. White (Anthony M. Kennedy did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

29 June 1988


The Oklahoma Court's death sentence against Thompson was overturned and the case was remanded.


The decision established a national standard recognizing that sentencing defendants under 16 years old to death constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

Related Cases

  • Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958).
  • Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972).
  • Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976).
  • Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989).
  • Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989).


Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org.

Further Readings

  • "Juveniles and the Death Penalty: Executions Worldwide since 1985." Amnesty International Index: ACT 50/05/95.
  • Taylor, Stuart, Jr. "Justices Put Age Limit On Executions."New York Times, June 30, 1988, p. 17.
  • Tushnet, Mark. The Death Penalty. New York: Facts On File, 1994.
  • Whitford, Ellen. "How A Family Tragedy May Lead To A Landmark Court Ruling." Scholastic Update, April 8, 1988, pp. 10-12.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988