Archive for Thursday, June 26, 2008

Court bans death penalty for child rape convictions

June 26, 2008


— The Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who rapes a child, issuing a broad decision that reserves the death penalty for murderers and those who commit crimes against the state.

The 5 to 4 decision continued the move by a slim majority of the court to narrow the circumstances under which capital punishment is allowed, even when society views the crime with "revulsion."

"There is a distinction between intentional first-degree murder on the one hand and nonhomicide crimes against individual persons, even including child rape, on the other," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in what will be a term-defining decision for the court.

While the latter may be "devastating in their harm," Kennedy said, "they cannot be compared to murder in their severity and irrevocability." He was joined by the court's more liberal members: John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

No one has been executed for rape in the United States since 1964. Though capital punishment can be imposed for crimes against the state such as treason, espionage and terrorism, of the 3,300 inmates on death rows across the country, only two face execution for a crime other than murder. Both were convicted under the Louisiana law in question, which authorized the death penalty for anyone who rapes a child under the age of 12.

Nevertheless, the decision prompted outrage from the conservative wing of the court, and condemnation from both of the presumptive candidates for president.

Justice Samuel Alito questioned the majority's logic that every murderer sentenced to death is more "morally depraved" than any child-rapist.

"I have little doubt that, in the eyes of ordinary Americans, the very worst child-rapists - predators who seek out and inflict serious physical and emotional injury on defenseless young children - are the epitome of moral depravity," he wrote. Alito was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The decision overturned the death penalty for Patrick Kennedy, 43, who was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana in 1998 - an assault so brutal that the girl required surgery.

It was a crime, Justice Kennedy wrote, "that cannot be recounted in these pages in a way sufficient to capture in full the hurt and horror inflicted on his victim." But that does not mean it should be answered by society with death, he wrote.

"When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint," Kennedy said.


SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 12 months ago

A victory for the North American Man Boy Love Association and their filthy defendants, the ACLU.

akt2 9 years, 12 months ago

They will probably die sooner than if they were sitting on death row waiting to be executed anyways. There will be many potential executioners.

denak 9 years, 12 months ago

The mother/female side of me does not agree with this but I do understand the legal reasoning behind the decision.As angry as child rape makes individuals, it does not carry the same kind of severity as murder does. As much as a child is injured, Kennedy is correct in that it does not carry the same severity and irrevocability.The child survives the rape. Not intact. Not whole, Probably permanantly damaged but not dead. That is the crucial difference.If we are going to have the death penalty in this country, there must be legal restraints put on the application of it so that it is not imposed arbitrarily and as much as it sickens some individuals, rape no matter who the victim is, is not the same as capital murder and should not carry the same punishment.Dena

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