Court to Hear Child-Rape Death-Penalty Challenge

The United States Supreme Court just announced that it will hear another six cases this term, including a case -- Kennedy v. Louisiana -- that will test that state's new law making child rape a capital offense.

The announcement comes just days before Monday's oral argument in Baze v. Rees, a serious (and, in my view, long-overdue) challenge to lethal injection protocols.

I'll have more next week. But, in the meantime, what do you think? Who is for capital punishment for non-homicide crimes -- despite court rulings a generation ago that suggest otherwise? And who is against extending capital punishment -- despite the horrific nature of child rape? Let me know. And have a nice weekend.

By Andrew Cohen |  January 4, 2008; 4:00 PM ET
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I am for getting rid of the death penalty for all offenses. If anything, I would argue that the pain inflicted on the family of a young child who was raped is greater than the pain inflicted on them if the child was to die in some other way. Society should definitely want to prevent such acts. But there is a slippery slope argument here, where if we feel that we can justify the death penalty for one offense, we can come up with arguments to justify it for another horrific offense.

Therefore, I think it best if we not execute anyone. I am all for life without parole etc. On another note, any idea why we did away with shooting squads or a bullet to the back of the head? How about the guillotine? They all seem more *humane* ways of taking a life (if there is such a thing).

Posted by: NCboy | January 4, 2008 05:26 PM

guess they will have to kill a lot of priests if this is allowed. Hmmm. or does it only apply to poor black guys

Posted by: george | January 5, 2008 12:07 AM


The reason we did away with shooting squads and the guillotine is that they are messy. They do not leave the body neatly in tact as do lethal injection or even the electric chair -- talk about a cruel high-tech way of killing people.

Hanging is also very effective, but also gruesome, so we don't like that.

The thing is most Americans are for the death penalty but most are also uncomfortable with its application. To me this is how it should be.

In fact lethal injection is the perfect solution. The only impediment, as I have mentioned before, is that the medical community, in a throw back to the Hippocratic oath, refuses to administer the lethal injection. This is the same medical community that willingly, sometimes enthusiastically, commits abortions and provides assists in euthanasia. If doctors would supervise executions, there would be no risk of pain.

Posted by: Constitutionalist | January 5, 2008 12:19 AM

The death penalty is popular in this country. If the majority of Americans support it then it should be legal. Why should nine high priests in black robes settle the matter when the constitution says NOTHING about the application of the death penalty so long as the suspect receives due process?

I predict "foreign law" will once again be used to justify the liberal activism by the justices who personally oppose capital punishment. Scalia will once again ponder why those hypocrites don't use foreign law on abortion cases and others when foreign law isn't so friendly to the liberal cause.

Any takers?

Posted by: Scooter | January 5, 2008 10:41 AM

The death penalty is popular in this country. If the majority of Americans support it then it should be legal. Why should nine high priests in black robes settle the matter when the constitution says NOTHING about the application of the death penalty so long as the suspect receives due process?

I predict "foreign law" will once again be used to justify the liberal activism by the justices who personally oppose capital punishment. Scalia will once again ponder why those hypocrites don't use foreign law on abortion cases and others when foreign law isn't so friendly to the liberal cause.

Any takers?

Posted by: Scooter | January 5, 2008 10:42 AM

The death penalty should be governed under federal law, not under individual state legislation. Hence, nonconforming lethal injections procedures and the criminal and moral dilemma that arises with Americans and the international community. Should child rapists receive the death penalty? No, life imprisonment without parole is ample punishment, plus there are no children in prison to cater to their mental illness.

Posted by: Tri chemical cocktail | January 5, 2008 03:45 PM

Hard to say, really. I'm definitely for the death penalty in cases of extreme murder. It's not a measure for vengeance as far as I regard it, but to remove that person from the planet so that, even in prison, they can't harm any more people. Where that line in the sand is drawn depends on what state you're in.

As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter HOW they're killed as opposed to WHY. I don't see why we've decided people should die humanely and painlessly. I've always thought we should keep it cheap and quick. If someone seriously wants it clean for a funeral, develop a cheaper way to kill them that way. I just think making it humane is a sort of a waste of time.

But killing child rapists? What's the point? They tend to be stabbing victims in prisons to begin with. In a way, they already receive a VERY cheap version of the death penalty.

Posted by: Vic van Meter | January 6, 2008 04:27 AM

It's time to join the rest of the civilized world and get rid of the death penalty. Only China and Iraq actually execute a larger fraction of their population than the US - hardly distinguished company to keep.

As a deterrent capital punishment is a failure since the appeals process produces a final verdict so far removed in time from the crime that the cause and effect relationship is meaningless. Those who commit capital crimes are not acting rationally, so they're unlikely to do a cost-benefit analysis before committing the crime. Upside: "This action will take care of my immediate problem" Downside: "This is a capital crime so if I (1) get caught and (2) convicted and (3) my years-long appeals process fails then I'll probably get executed". To a non-rational actor, what's the downside compared to immediate gratification?

The stigma of allowing the state to take a life results in an expensive, time-consuming appeals process. The appeals process has value as demonstrated by recent exonerations. Life without parole would accomplish the state's objective of removing the offender from society just as well as capital punishment. The only value of capital punishment is personal vengeance, and even then doing it in the dead of night behind locked doors limits its impact to those who actually witness the execution.

Posted by: Warren Brownell | January 6, 2008 10:24 AM

Scooter, the US Constitution not only guarantees due process; it also prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. If the SC rules the death penalty itself unconstitutional, it will be because society has progressed to the place where taking a person's life for committing a crime has become "cruel and unusual".

When we see what a large number of people on death row have been exonerated by DNA testing recently, one could make an argument that the finality of the death penalty makes it "unusual", in the sense that no other punishment makes compensation completely impossible, if a mistake is discovered later.

Any reply?

Posted by: hesthe | January 6, 2008 07:28 PM

The late term abortion procedure on a baby only inches out of the womb is to jam scissors into his little brain in order to kill it. This baby has done no crime but is executed none the less. So why are the overwhelming number of Americas liberals against the death penalty because it's inhumane, but for killing a baby simply because the mother messed up and now doesn't want to bother with a child? If the baby is fully developed and can live and breathe on it's own--as is the case in late term abortions--then that baby has more right to life than say John Couye who kidnapped and raped a little girl and then buried her alive inside a garbage bag holding her teddy bear.
There are some crimes so horrible that the death penalty is justified. While the European and some other like--minded countries get on their high horses whining about the USA still executing guys like Couye and telling the world how superior they are for not having a death penalty, they release and parole multi-murderers after only a few years served. In many of these countries these killers are housed in a country club setting and get weekend vacations. When Samuel Sheinbein for instance murdered Alfred Tello Jr. in Maryland and then gruesomly dismembered his body with a electric saw, burned it, and then fled to Israel he was sentenced to 24 years backdated to his arraignment. He became eligable for 24 hour forloughs after serving only 4 years.

Posted by: madhatter | January 6, 2008 09:08 PM

Unless you believe that child rape is worse than child murder the death penalty for child rape should be rejected on practical grounds. The message it conveys to the child rapist is that he should kill his victim to cover up his crime, since he no longer has anything to lose. This law is more likely to result in more child murders than in fewer child rapes

Posted by: Bob Yaes | January 7, 2008 08:36 AM

Scooter-- At one time slavery was supported by most Americans. I've seen polls that a majority of Americans would support legal restrictions on hate speech (the 1st Amendment be dammed). Not too long ago laws forbidding inter-racial marriages were very popular in some states.

Right and wrong cannot be justified by popular opinion and rights are rights. One's Eighth Amendment Rights are not subject to the winds of public opinion. They cannot be suspended due to the results of an election.

Posted by: Al | January 7, 2008 09:05 AM

I say, let the victims family decide the life or death punishment issue. After the jury trial. We spend a lot of time worrying about the guilty and virtually nothing for the victim. I do not view the death penalty as a deterrant. Except for the person who commits the crime. And that is enough.

Posted by: Pete | January 7, 2008 08:24 PM

Due to the inequalities, and unfairness in regards to the way many criminal cases are obtained, pursued, and carried out via the Due Process procedure, and the fact that new DNA evidence has been clearly so many wrongfully accused innocent people, I feel the Death Penalty is wrong in all cases. If the proof is uncertain to deem the crime being committed by the offender, then the Death Penalty should be off the table.

Posted by: Felton | January 9, 2008 10:45 AM

I don't believe child rape or any violent acts leading to the destruction of a child in this fashion should be taken lightly. I say child rape is wrong, and if the evidence in indisputable that a child has been raped, then perhaps it would serve as a deterant when sex offenders learn the clear message, that when you rape a child, immediate death is the definite result. So if evidence shows that a child has been raped, there should be no appeals. The Death Sentence should be executed in less than 3 business days. This gives the families of both the victim and the offender time to be at the execution, and it sends the message out to The American public, that we have the strongest intent on protecting our children from future offenses. I believe softness on the issue of child rape invites other likely offenses in the future. Suppose it was your kid. How would you feel? If the law holds an equal result for this offense no matter what, people will stop raping children.

Posted by: Felton | January 9, 2008 10:56 AM

Child-rape is definitely a form of murder. The body can recover and live on, but the mind and soul have been killed. I think any sexual crime should be seen as what it is: soul murder, and punished accordingly.

However, I'm against capital punishment, preferring life without parole. There is no way any perpetrator can "pay his debt to society", even with his own life. Victims lives are ruined and souls are killed by violence. Let the perpetrator live on in prison to try to regain his own soul.

Posted by: Anne | January 9, 2008 12:01 PM

Although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I must say that it appears that few of you actually understand the irrevocable destruction that is placed upon the victim. American dramatics and litigation are so far removed from the actual problem that by time society realizes that there is a problem, it's too late. In my opinion, a person (be it he/she or the other) commits a crime punishable by death, then death it shall be. When did we (society) decide that the rights of the accused over take the rights of the victim? Have we all gone mad? This is exactly why these cretins of society plague us in such a violent and impressionable way, we are too afraid to set precedent.

I would hate to see what any of you would do if the victim was your eight, ten or eleven year old family member. The process for determining death is not one that is reached quickly. It takes a jury of your peers and there are so few crimes that even fit within the guidelines for capital punishment. So, if you are one that is as meticulous as to committing those two or three crimes, then you should be put to death. Allowing this person (if you can even call them a person) to wallow in self-pity while living the reminder of his/her years with three (3) square meals, lodging, health care etc. until such time that their life should naturally end, I feel is inhumane. No one ever stops to think about the inhumanity that was placed upon the victim. One of you pointed out the story with Jessica Lunsford (right here in Florida) buried alive (ALIVE PEOPLE) clutching helplessly to her teddy bear! Oh, I forgot you all think that her death was less inhumane than the carefully and calculatingly injecting of sleeping drugs into the veins of a killer. Please excuse me, wrong crowd.

Posted by: Chi | January 24, 2008 08:45 PM

A. Why sink to the level of behaviour that we are condemning?

B. Here in Britain, we aim to rehabilitate more than punish, bear that thought in mind. Even in the event of a criminal being beyond the point of rehabilitation, aren't we beyond such barbarism in this day and age?

C. Stating that "no-one cares for victims' rights" is bullsh*t. But essentially what you are calling for her, quite clearly to me, is the satisfaction of a base human instinct: venegeance. Its such basis impulses that are exactly the reason why victims families etc should NOT be those responsible for meting out "justice" as guaranteed it would simply be revenge and I am not comfortable with a system that endorses the satisfaction of savage impulses of our animal brains with no further justification.

D. As someone already mentioned popular support isn't a justification eg. slavery in the past. If 51% of the population one day decided rape was acceptable, would this affect the true moral value of this act one iota? Of course not.

E. It simply does not work as a deterrent. People who engage in capital level punishments are statistically speaking mostly either suffering serious disorders or mental illnesses, have very poor societal integration, low education and low understanding of the legal process, plus almost unifyingly very poor impulse control and effective reasoning and decision-making abilities, and so will go on to offend despite the possible consequence being death.

Come on. Join the European system and say "no" to capital punishment. Cage that animal back up.

Posted by: Del Mids | January 26, 2008 12:04 AM

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Posted by: Kakerbuff | January 29, 2008 04:35 AM

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