SCOTUS outlaws death penalty for child rape

The Supreme Court on Wednesday outlawed executions of people convicted of raping a child.

In a 5-4 vote, the court said the Louisiana law allowing the death penalty to be imposed in such cases 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.

In this case, proponents of the Louisiana law said the trend was toward the death penalty, a point mentioned by Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent.

“The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave,” Alito wrote. “It is the judgment of the Louisiana lawmakers and those in an increasing number of other states that these harms justify the death penalty.”


Note the crucial difference in the Justices opinions:

  • Kennedy feels that he gets to decide what Louisiana’s lawmakers should have decided.
  • Alito upholds the laws passed by the Louisiana legislature, and supports their judgement based on the local situation.

Again, what is the point of the legislative branch of government when the courts make up laws? Do we live in an oligarchy? What about federalism? The Legislature was set up so the people could decide what laws of the land were fair, not 9 unelected men in the supreme court.

I think judgment on crimes should be made on a case by case situation by local justice systems (see caveat at end of post), not the ‘one law to rule them all’ crap that justice Kennedy seems to support.

Plus, call me cold hearted, but I am certain that there are cases of child rape that more than justify the death penalty (read the horrid facts of this case at the bottom of this post). And what about repeat rape cases? In my opinion, I don’t think that the American taxpayer should have to pay to feed and shelter (the worst of these) pieces of human trash.

UPDATE: Ed Whelan unloads on Kennedy’s decision:

Kennedy’s 36 pages of insufferable blather amount to little more than a declaration that the majority doesn’t think that capital punishment is ever a fair penalty for the rape of a child—“no matter,” as Justice Alito puts it in his dissent, “how young the child, no matter how many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how much physical or psychological trauma is inflicted, and no matter how heinous the perpetrator’s prior criminal record may be.” 

If I find time, I may focus more attention on Kennedy’s string of assertions.  For now, I’ll just call attention to the facts that occasioned Kennedy’s pronouncement that “[e]volving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person”—the person whose dignity is the object of his concern being the rapist, not the victim and not other future victims.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING (The following is a description of the facts of this case. I put them in white because they are graphic and shockingly horrid. You can select below to read them.): 

 The facts are graphic and awful.  Kennedy (not the justice) was charged with the aggravated rape of L.H., his then-8-year-old stepdaughter.  When police found L.H. some two hours after the attack, she was bleeding profusely from the vaginal area.  She was transported to the hospital, where she was discovered to have a laceration to the left wall of the vagina that “separated her cervix from the back of her vagina, causing her rectum to protrude into the vaginal structure.  Her entire perineum was torn from the posterior fourchette to the anus.  The injuries required emergency surgery.”  Shortly after he committed the rape, Kennedy called a colleague to ask “how to get blood out of a white carpet because his daughter had ‘just become a lady.’”

UPDATE: Some friends of mine brought up some great points that I think need expanding upon. First – it is of course important to have a some sort of national unity agreement on laws and punishment. Like one friend mentioned – If you have one tough state, and one wuss state – the crime will just move over to the wuss state. Plus – I am not for tossing the death penalty around willy nilly. The decision to to end a person’s life is as grave a decision as a judicial system probably ever encounters. We certainly don’t just want ‘the mob’ to decide what crimes deem what penalties. 

However, I do think that the certain heinous nature of some crimes do require severe punishment. The death penalty certainly should not be seen as retribution. Still, the fact that a person can absolutely devastate the life of a child, but so long as you don’t kill them in the process…

I guess my problem with this decision is that the SCOTUS makes it completely impossible for the death penalty to ever be warranted, regardless of the circumstances, in a rape case were the victim lives. It seems like a ‘one size fits all’ sort of ruling that may not be adequate to all circumstances.

I’ll have to keep mulling this one over. What do you think?

UPDATE: Great write-up on this over at Hotair.

3 Responses to “SCOTUS outlaws death penalty for child rape”

  1. Matt Says:

    I think that a very dangerous line when gets crossed when one decides to impose the death penalty when a death did not occur. For 2 reasons off the top of my head. 1: The slippery slope becomes who defines what is heinous enough for the death penalty. 2: A shockingly high number of people on death row have been exonerated after new evidence came forth indicating that they were innocent. Had the Supreme Court ruled in the other direction, then the door gets opened to a lot more wrongly accused defendants being sentenced, and put, to death.
    Also, you asked early in your post: “What’s the point of the legislative branch of government when the courts make up the laws?” One point of the legislative branch is to enact laws that are constitutional, and punishments for crimes falls under that. Justice Kennedy’s quote points to the Supreme Court’s job, which is to ensure, as best they can, that laws are constitutional. Justice Alito’s quote seems to say that it doesn’t matter what the Constitution says, so long as Louisiana feels the need to execute child rapists.

  2. whatthecrap? Says:

    Definitely some important and interesting thoughts on this Matt. Thanks for your perspective.

  3. ALbaby Says:

    So the SCOTUS based their decision of public “consensus” and “evolving standards of decency” which means the 5 want a living Constitution, one that changes with popular opinion. IOW they want to legislate from the bench rather than give the public a vote on changing the Constitution.

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