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US Supreme Court bans death penalty for child rape

Latest update : 2008-06-26

Upholding the view that capital punishment only applies to homicide, the US Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty cannot be imposed for child rape.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday the death penalty cannot be imposed for child rape, its first decision in more than 30 years on whether a crime other than murder can be punished by execution.

 

The nation's highest court ruled by a 5-4 vote that the death penalty for the crime of raping a child violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

 

Writing for the court majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Constitution bars a state from imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child when the crime did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim's death.

 

The ruling was a victory for Patrick Kennedy, 43, of Louisiana, who challenged his death sentence after being convicted for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1998.

 

Of the more than 3,300 inmates on death row in America, Kennedy and another man convicted of child rape in Louisiana are the only ones who did not commit murder.

 

The Supreme Court last ruled on the death penalty and rape in 1977, when it outlawed executions in a case in which the victim was an adult woman. It declared the death penalty an excessive penalty for a rapist who does not take a human life.

 

That decision left open whether the death penalty can be imposed for child rape. The Louisiana law, adopted in 1995, allows the death penalty for those convicted of rape of a child under the age of 12. It was later amended to change the age to 13.

 

Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas have similar laws. The last execution in the United States for rape occurred 44 years ago.

 

Kennedy, in the court's majority opinion, declared the Louisiana law to be unconstitutional. He said a national consensus exists against capital punishment for the crime of child rape.

Date created : 2008-06-25

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