Saturday, January 5, 2008

Child Rape = Death?

I wondered how long it would take for this issue to come before the Supreme Court. Now, come April 2008, the constitutionality of a death penalty sentence for the rape of a child will be heard.

The case revolves around one Patrick Kennedy who was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana. The death penalty for the crime of rape was deemed unconstitutional by the 1977 Supreme Court finding that, "a sentence of death is grossly disproportionate and excessive punishment for the crime of rape and is therefore forbidden by the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment." However, Louisiana legislature passed a law in 1995 allowing the death penalty for the rape of a child under 12 years old. The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the Kennedy death sentence stating that, "Child rape is the most heinous of all non-homicide crimes...while the majority of other states may not provide capital punishment for child rape, many do provide capital punishment for other non-homicide crimes (that) are far less heinous."

Ah, the protests that will surround this ruling. What a can of worms this opens. As if this the death penalty is not a hot-button issue all on its own. Now toss in another healthy dose of emotion.

I tend to be undecided on the death penalty because its current form is wholly ineffective. Perhaps if death row inmates were not held for decades, one could consider it as a potentially effective means of general deterrence. Since that is not the case, I remain undecided.

However, that is neither here nor there. The issue here, beyond the simple notion of death penalty constitutionality, is the slippery slope of this particular case. What constitutes a child? 16? 12? How old does the perpetrator have to be? What if the rapist is 14? 17? Is it any rape of a child that age or does it have to be especially aggravated? Even so, is that worthy of death? Going back to
Coker v. Georgia 1977 Supreme Court ruling, “we have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which is unique in its severity and irrevocability, is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life.”

Perhaps this post should have been placed at our less feminist blog, The Journal of Modern Armchair Philosophies, however, there is the undeniable feminist undertone to this case since the crime of rape in and of itself is often not taken as seriously as it should be.


Anonymous said...

I agree that we need to limit the scope of death penalty as much as possible not to expand it. This country is being barbaric for executing people still. Rape of a child is a despicable crime, but two wrongs do not make it right.
Where is Pobre? The outrage is no fun without her!

La Pobre Habladora said...

Outrage is what I'm know for, huh? Well, I think I'm proud!

I'm am ashamed, though, that I've been lurking as of late - just reading Maus's ever-interesting posts. See... I need a new job and every time I sit down at the computer to write, I've felt like I should be writing, well... cover letters. So until I find new (paid) employment, Maus might have to be the Director of Outrage. I'll be more like the Assistant (to the) Director of Outrage.

Anonymous said...

Thank Goddesses, Pobre is alive!
Good luck with your job search and hope it does not depress you out of writing.
Take care,

Agincourt said...

Actually, I am official Poker, Prodder, and Pointer-Outer to the Director of Outrage. It doesn't pay well, but I get a key to the Executive Washroom at least. Occasionally I fetch beer.

Anonymous said...

Hey do you guys need a Consultant on Outrage?
That is just so Me!

Mächtige Maus said...

Why, I do believe there is an opening for an official Consultant on Outrage! What luck, eh?!