Wednesday, June 25, 2008

US Courts reject child rape law


Is Child rape < Death Penalty?

In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court has banned a Louisiana law that would permit capital punishment for someone convicted of raping a child. Justices in favor of striking down the law won by a vote of 5-4.

The court said the Louisiana law would have violated the US constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment”.

“The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion. (BBC News)

Case Background

Patrick Kennedy, a man from suburban New Orleans, was sentenced to death after being convicted of raping his eight-year-old stepdaughter. He has contended since the assault occurred in March 1998 that it was committed by two neighborhood boys. His attorneys have said he refused to plead guilty when a deal was offered to spare him from a death sentence.

The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the imposition of the death sentence, noting that, although the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down capital punishment for rape of an adult woman in Coker v. Georgia, that ruling did not apply when the victim was a child. Rather, the Louisiana Supreme Court applied a balancing test set out by the Court in Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons, first examining whether there is a national consensus on the punishment and then considering whether the court would find the punishment excessive. In this case, the Louisiana Supreme Court felt that the adoption of similar laws in five other states, coupled with the unique vulnerability of children, justified imposing the death penalty.

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