The Supreme Court Strikes Down Death Penalty for Child Rape
The Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana law that allowed the execution of people convicted of a raping a child. In a 5-4 vote, the court said that the law allowing the death penalty to be imposed in cases of child rape violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. “The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. His four liberal colleagues joined him, while four other justices dissented.
The decision prompted an unyielding rebuttal from the conservative wing of the court, and condemnation from both presidential candidates, even though 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 row nationwide, 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 younger than 12.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. 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.
Both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates strongly denounced the court’s decision.
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