The efforts of nearly a dozen states to execute child rapists were derailed Wednesday by a Supreme Court decision that incensed supporters of such punishment. Officials in at least two states said they weren't ready to give up.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called the ruling "a clear abuse of judicial authority" and vowed state officials will "evaluate ways to amend our statute to maintain death as a penalty for this horrific crime." In Oklahoma, state Sen. Jay Paul Gumm promised similar efforts. "We will certainly look at what options we have," Gumm said. "I think the people of Oklahoma have spoken loudly that this is one of the most heinous of crimes."
Five states have laws that explicitly permit such executions. At issue before the high court was a Louisiana case involving Patrick Kennedy, sentenced to die for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in her bed in 1998, an assault so severe she required surgery.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the death penalty a disproportionate punishment for raping children under the age of 12, despite the horrendous nature of such acts.
Justices made a similar ruling in 1977, when they said the death penalty was unconstitutional punishment for a Georgia man convicted of raping a teenager who was an adult under the law.
Louisiana's law, passed in 1995, is the broadest in the country. It also makes first-time offenders eligible for the death penalty, unlike Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Montana - which required at least one previous conviction for child rape. Following Wednesday's ruling, all become unconstitutional.
Several states, including Missouri, Alabama and Colorado had been considering similar laws. Supporters there were incensed by Wednesday's ruling.
"Anybody in the country who cares about children should be outraged that we have a Supreme Court that would issue a decision like this," said Alabama Attorney General Troy King, who represented one of nine states that filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Louisiana on the grounds that child rape represented "manifest evil."
Justices are "creating a situation where the country is a less safe place to grow up," King said.