In recent years, the proper role of comparative law in the jurisprudence of American courts has become a hotly debated and controversial topic. The question was brought to the forefront of the legal community's attention following a number of United States Supreme Court decisions, perhaps most notably in Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons, rulings that addressed the constitutionality of administering the death penalty to mentally retarded and juvenile defendants. In both decisions, the Court was divided on whether to regard foreign laws and practices as indicative of an evolving standard of decency when determining whether a punishment should be considered “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.


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