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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Missouri Death Penalty Case

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a Missouri death penalty case that could determine if states can continue to execute felons who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes.

In August the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Christopher Simmons, who killed a St. Louis area woman when he was 17.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Simmons' attorney Jennifer Herndon said she is not surprised the justices decided to take the case.

"It'll have an effect nationwide," Herndon said. "If the Supreme Court decides that it's cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to execute juveniles, then that would mean that no state could execute a juvenile."

A spokeswoman for Nixon says only the legislature should be able to change the death penalty law.

The Supreme Court could hear the case in October.