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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?


lovelie lovelie 9 years
I agree Jillness. I think that each of these cases that comes to the court need to be tried by standards that are appropriate to the specifics of the crime. I think many states(especially ones w/o the death penalty) are trying to do this by implementing penalty enhancers. For example, bias or hate motivated crimes carry special penalty enhancers which make a simple act of battery the equivalent (as far as penalty goes) of assault with a deadly weapon. I think what states should be doing is attach very specific penalty enhancers to sex crimes (specifically involving children).
Jillness Jillness 9 years
IMO, part of the purpose of the justice system is that cases are tried on a case by case basis, so that the judge and jury can weigh in the nuances of the case when making their decisions. I tend to be wary of binding the hands of the jury and judge, because we never really know what will fit that SPECIFIC crime. I guess, just because you can't imagine a rape that would be as terrible as a murder, doesn't mean it can not happen. I am not for the death penalty, but I also don't know if we should set blanket limitations for sentencing. When I was a teen, there was a story in my state about a man abducting a little girl, and he forced himself so hard into her mouth that if he hadn't eventually killed her...she would still never be able to talk again. He destroyed her throat and vocal cords with his member, broke bones in her neck. How painful for that child. They also ruled that you can't use previous statements of a dead person against a murder suspect (the law states they must have the right to cross examine) that REALLY helped out spousal abusers. Great.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
"It's easy to feel no compassion. Especially for those who commit heinous crimes. This is why I am glad we have courts to protect even those whom we call monsters." That's interesting. I always thought we had courts to root out justice and protect the victims.
lovelie lovelie 9 years
My views over the death penalty have changed a lot over the years, however, I think that in some ways, this ruling was appropriate. I work in a District Attorneys office, and believe you me..there are a lot of people that I wish would never have the opportunity to see the light of day again. Personally though, I believe the death penalty is the easy way out. After the extensive appeals process which will keep the familys of the victims on pins and needles for a good decade...praying that there are no loopholes..and then that glorious day comes and thats it..the offender is done suffering. I think having to spend your natural life in prison knowing that this is it for you, would probably be a much worse punishment. Also as Justice Kennedy wrote, "A state that punishes child rape by death may remove a strong incentive for the rapist not to kill the victim."
PooopieFace PooopieFace 9 years
Every person incarcerated for for a drug charge represents a violent offender being released early. Legalize it, let my people go and let's put all the billions spent fighting happy people and their God given rights and direct them into The War On Child Rape. It's the economy stupid.
PooopieFace PooopieFace 9 years
Man I'm a genius! Instead of worrying about getting around the Supreme Court's decision. Let's agree to it while at the same time draft another bill that exempts parents or close family members from punishment for executing a convicted child rapist. Done.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
"someone who finds anything about a child sexually appealing. That is the deepest form of mental depravity. These people should never be around civilization again, and civilazation shouldn't have to pay to feed, house, clothe, etc. these poor excuses for human beings." I'm not against keeping these individuals out of society and out of harms way. In my opinion however these individuals would better serve society as the subjects of psychiatric study and there is no reason why they can not perform tasks such as manufacturing to pay for their keep. I understand where people are coming from when they say they do not want tax dollars to pay for these criminals. I would ask though is the greater cost to society not taking the opportunity to try and find answers to the madness which afflicts these individuals? Wouldn't simply killing them and leaving it at that only leave the cycle open to continue on indefinitely? I'm all about finding answers because somewhere in those sick demented twisted minds there is a (psychiatric answer) and resolution to be had. If we are brave enough to take this to task we just may give future generations salvation from such a hell.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
Glad to see I'm not alone Great Sommelier. Any wine suggestions?
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 9 years
There is no reform for someone who is mentally deranged enough to hurt a child, especially someone who finds anything about a child sexually appealing. That is the deepest form of mental depravity. These people should never be around civilization again, and civilazation shouldn't have to pay to feed, house, clothe, etc. these poor excuses for human beings.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 9 years
They may deserve the death penalty, but that doesn't make it constitutional.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
I don't have time to try and figure out why this monsters do what they do and I don't have any children, but I'm still on the side of most parents - milosmommy especially.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
It's easy to feel no compassion. Especially for those who commit heinous crimes. This is why I am glad we have courts to protect even those whom we call monsters. Scratch beneath the surface of any child abuser and you will most likely find a reason. Whether we as a society wish to cure this illness means we have to go beyond the simplistic "eye for an eye" mentality and perhaps root out the causes.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Precisely stephley, there is something going on in these people that we just don't understand right now. The death penalty used here wouldn't be any more a deterrent than in any other matter. I plan on adopting children within the next six years or so. I can imagine that having a child go through this horrible experience would be just like loosing a child because on some level they have. When I was sixteen my eldest brother who was twenty-nine at the time had his life taken by violence. I remember my mother’s grief it is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. My heart goes out to any parent who has to deal with violence inflicted on their child.
stephley stephley 9 years
Lots of people have children they love more than life itself, that doesn't make making the world blind and toothless okay and it wouldn't make the children any safer.
kastarte2 kastarte2 9 years
Liberty, I would bet that as the father of two young girls, Obama is reacting with his gut too.
milosmommy milosmommy 9 years
Sorry and I know this is because I am the mother of a small child...but I think the death penalty is very much appropiate. I have to say too that if it were my child the person that did the crime would wish for the death penalty after I'm done with them.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
That should be SHARPENING, spell checker not working for me right now.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
Blind and toothless - and that's a bad thing? At least we'd know who the bad people are, right? If it's a sex crime they'd be worse off than toothless. I'm shapening my axe right now. :)
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
UnDave and AmberHoney you would have us all walking around blind and toothless. In light of the article I don't blame you for your vigilante expletive outbursts but that brand of justice has no control we would surely suffer the consequence.
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
Here here UnDave35 - an eye for an eye.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
Here's an interesting twist: Barack Obama disagrees with the Supreme Court's prohibition of the death penalty in cases of child rape. From AP:
Obama told reporters Wednesday that he thinks the rape of a child, ages six or eight, is a heinous crime. He said if a state makes a decision, then the death penalty is potentially applicable. He disagreed with the court's blanket prohibition.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
If the punishment must fit the crime, then I suggest we do the same "thing" to the criminal that they did to the victim, but with anatomical ratios to equal that between the man and the child...
AmberHoney AmberHoney 9 years
Nothing lenghty from me KILL THEM, if just one dies maybe it will stop someone else. Maybe!
kastarte2 kastarte2 9 years
Although I believe some crimes are unforgivable and some criminals incapable of rehabilitating, I actually am not in favor of the death penalty in general. I know that it is more costly to execute than to keep some one in jail for life, but the thing is, most of them are not getting life. They are getting out in less than a decade. What I was trying to say is that our current system is not working. Something has to change. So if the death penalty isn't the answer then what is? Hypno is right. These people need to be studied so we can learn more about why they do what they do, but in the mean time, what do we do? I know I am having a gut reaction because I am so disgusted. And yes, I have been watching too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU on USA, but I think we can all agree that the current system isn't working.
MindayH MindayH 9 years
I agree with hypnotic - additionally as much as my gut says the person should die, I also can see the argument of not wanting the child who was being abused to have to repeatedly testify. And I wouldn't have as much faith in our judicial system if someone was being sentenced to death without a few testimonies from eye witnesses - no matter how young that individual may be.
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