Court to consider death penalty for child rape

The Scotsman

Well-Known Member
Apr 1, 2008
South of the Haggis Munching Line
Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:28am ET24
By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court this week hears arguments about whether the death penalty can be imposed for child rape, taking up for the first time in more than 30 years whether a crime other than murder can be punished by execution.

The nation's highest court has set arguments on Wednesday on whether the death penalty for the crime of raping a child represents unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

It will be the second major death penalty case heard this year. In January, the justices considered the current lethal three-drug cocktail used in most U.S. executions.

A ruling is expected by late June on the challenge by two Kentucky death row inmates who argued the lethal injection method violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment by inflicting needless pain and suffering.

Executions in the United States last year fell to a 13-year low of 42, and have been temporarily halted since the Supreme Court agreed in late September to decide the lethal injection case.

The Supreme Court's review of death penalty-related cases comes amid a growing nationwide debate on capital punishment itself in one of the few democracies that still permit it.

The case involved an appeal by Patrick Kennedy of Louisiana, who was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter and sentenced to death.

Of the more than 3,300 inmates on death row in America, Kennedy and another man convicted of child rape in Louisiana are the only two who did not commit murder.

The last execution in the United States for rape occurred 44 years ago.


In 1977, the Supreme Court banned executions for rape in a case in which the victim was an adult woman but left open whether child rapists can be sentenced to death.

The Louisiana law was adopted in 1995. In its current version, rape can be punished by death when the victim was under 13 years of age.

At least four other states -- Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas -- have similar laws.

Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford University law professor representing Kennedy, argued that the U.S. Constitution bars imposing the death penalty for rape, regardless of the victim's age.

"Society views capital punishment as excessive punishment for child rape," Fisher said, citing a national consensus and international norms.

"Today no Western nation authorizes the death penalty for any kind of rape," Fisher said, adding that it is allowed in only a handful of countries, including China, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

Juliet Clark, an assistant district attorney in Louisiana, said the death penalty represented a constitutional punishment for raping a child.

"Public outrage over the sexual violation of immature young children by predatory adults is extremely great due to the recognition that these offenders target and harm the most vulnerable members of our society," she said.

She said 14 states and the federal government authorize the death penalty for various offenses other than murder, such as treason, espionage, kidnapping and aircraft hijacking.

Nine states, led by Texas, supported Louisiana, while the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund supported Kennedy.

The two rights groups said a historical consensus existed against the death penalty for rape in the United States, except for Southern states willing in the past to execute blacks, especially those convicted of raping white women and children.

Paul Butler, a law professor at George Washington University, said moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy may hold the decisive vote on the court closely divided between conservatives and liberals.

Kennedy wrote the court's majority opinion in 2005 that abolished the death penalty for juveniles and he joined the majority opinion in 2002 that barred executions of mentally retarded criminals.

(Editing by Alan Elsner)


So, for the first time in 30 years the Supreme Court of the United States is concidering the death penalty for a crime other than murder. The justices are going to hear arguments for and against the death penalty for Child Rape.

Although I would quite happily support the death penalty for crimes against kids, indeed if anyone touched my kids I wouldn't bat an eyelid whilst putting a bullet through their head - I know in cases where some poor mite is brough into the emergency room all ripped and bleeding the reaction is to kill the f**ker, however, does blind emotion make for bad justice?

Personally I think I'd be happy to see these people fed to the lions......
How about this - cut their testacles off.

Take away the sex drive, stop them reoffending and let them live a life free from this sick passion.
its also mental so you never know if they are so obsessed they would still do it. as for lethal injection and its controversy about being cruel and unusual, this person killed another person/s in cold blood but god forbid he feels 30 seconds of pain before he dies. i do think we should use cheaper ways to kill them such as a bullet to the temple. its quick, painless and effiecient. everyone wins. exept of course the dead guy. we need to be more consistant with death penalty for murderers first.
like i said: we need to be more consistant with the death penalty for murderers before we take it a step further. and to be fair he did mention lethal injections controversy.
Just as a note... How many children each year are raped and live through it. How do you think instituting child rape capital punishment will effect these statistics since it would definitely reduce witnesses to a crime you may die for anyways....

just a thought.
How about this - cut their testacles off.

Take away the sex drive, stop them reoffending and let them live a life free from this sick passion.

This has been tried, Sub, and it doesn't work. Once a person is past puberty their sexuality tends to be pretty firmly fixed in them. It was found that men who had been castrated and could not have sex the way the were used to tended to rape with things besides the now non-functional male organ--knives, guns... Since rape is not a sexual activity as much as a power-trip, they continued to rape but with even greater rage than previously.

What hasn't been tried as far as I know is giving these men estrogen, I'm not sure how it could be done long term, but it might have a calming effect.
This is a tricky subject really. This raises the definition of rape versus sexual assault. Because in my state it is considered the same thing. Whereas in some other states there is somehow a difference. I will also point out that the far majority of child rape is not the guy trolling the park with candy trying to pick up kids. But instead it is usually someone known to the child and sadly all to often goes unreported to the authorities.
It is often the parents, or a sibling, or an extended relative or family friend that is committing these crimes. Im torn on the death penalty really.

Mare raises an interesting idea with estrogen. I am not sure if in America one can be forced to take a hormone, drug etc without it being medically necessary. Also the health effects could cause litigation over cruel and unusual punishment. I am not a lawyer, and my casual study of law hasnt covered this area.
Anyone know if this has been tried in another country?
I'm pretty sure mental paitents can be forced to take their medicating if they are seriously psychotic bunz, so I don't see why you couldn't do the same with eostrogen. At least in the UK, a patient in a mental asylum can be forceably given their medication through injection.
Estrogen is the fundamental femal hormone and is used to keep transwomen that way.

I think that mare's suggestion lands squarely within the 'cruel and unusual punishment' category.
And raping a small child doesn't come under a cruel punishment for the child?

What's your suggestion then nummy?
And raping a small child doesn't come under a cruel punishment for the child?

What's your suggestion then nummy?

Mare's suggestion I believe was to inject them with estrogen as part of
punishment now mental patients who dont know any better are a different story. We are talking about an otherwise sane but very sick person.

I will agree with your sentiments about child sexual assault being cruel and would gladly bash anyone in the face who did that to someone. But I am not sure if it is constitutional to do so.
There is no logical reason to consider the rape of a child inherently worse than the rape of an adult. In fact, the very opposite may be true. While one may automatically assume that sexual rape of a child is worse than that of an adult, I disagree that the conventional rape of a child is worse than the conventional rape of an adult. While rape is a heinous violation of one's right to self-governance and bodily sovereignty, I believe it to be a natural biological act. This does not mean that it is acceptable, of course. To assert that it is would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy.

Because of this, women of reproductive age experience more emotional and psychological trauma after forced sexual intercourse than do children or post-menopausal women:

Children typically do not regard forced sexual intercourse as any more brutal or traumatizing than other forms of assault. Nor should they. Nor should anyone, frankly. What should make you feel worse: for someone to assault you because they feel sexually aroused by you, or for someone to assault you because they hold malevolent feelings towards you?

Hence, rape should be considered more serious based on the consequences it brings about, and it would seem more reasonable to consider an assault that caused severe emotional trauma more serious than one that did not. It would follow that rape of an adult woman is on average worse than the rape of a child or post-menopausal woman.