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Child Rape Death Penalty Unconstitutional, For Murder Only

The US Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for cases of child rape as unconstitutional today, continuing its tendency to narrow, rather than expand, capital punishment. The broad ruling held that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment requires that the defendant killed, and intended to kill, the victim in order to trigger the death sentence. The Court left room for death in cases of treason, by discussing only crimes against individuals.

Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, which sited the unfairness and inaccuracies of the death penalty as reasons to be cautious when expanding its application. He also brought up that the death sentence requires repeated and painful testimony from the child victim, writing: “The way the death penalty here involves the child victim in its enforcement can compromise a decent legal system."

To see what Justice Alito, writing for the conservative dissenters, wrote

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

When the Court heard oral arguments on this issue a while back, you all weighed in on whether you think the death penalty for child rape constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Now that the Supreme Court has decided, and you've seen their reasoning, do you agree that death is a disproportional punishment to the crime? Should children be protected from having to testify repeatedly through a long drawn-out death penalty trial and appeal process?


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