For today, I'll be adding updates to this post. The opinion is here.
The ruling also invalidates a provision in a Jessica's Law bill passed by the Texas Legislature last year. That death penalty was the centerpiece of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's 2007 legislative program.
SCOTUS Blog's Lyle Denniston reports, "Death penalty barred for child rape."
Barring the death penalty for any crime that does not take the life of an individual victim, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for the crime of raping a child. If the victim does not die or death was not intended, capital punishment for that crime violates the Eighth Amendment, the Court ruled in an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The case was Patrick Kennedy v. Louisiana (07-343). The broad declaration that death sentences should be reserved “for crimes that take the life of the victim” will apply, the Court said, to crimes against individuals — thus leaving intact, for example, a possible death sentence for treason.Part of the Court’s rationale for nullifying a death sentence for raping a child was that the child victim gets enlisted, perhaps repeatedly, to recount the crime, forcing on the child “a moral choice” that the youngster is not mature enough to make. “The way the death penalty here involves the child victim in its enforcement can compromise a decent legal system,” Justice Kennedy wrote.
At the New York Times, David Stout writes, "Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty for Child Rape."
“The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
Not since 1964 has anyone been executed in the United States for a crime other than murder, and of about 3,300 inmates now on death row, only two are facing execution for an offense that did not involve a killing — and both of those inmates are in Louisiana. Patrick Kennedy, was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter and the other is Richard Davis, who was condemned for assaulting a 5-year-old girl.
The case of Kennedy v. Louisiana, No. 07-343, was the latest in a series in which the justices have weighed particular applications of capital punishment. In 2002, for instance, the Supreme Court barred the execution of mentally retarded defendants, and in 2005 it banned the execution of people for crimes they committed before they were 18.
The initial AP dispatch is, "Court rejects death penalty for raping children."
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I'm watching SCOTUS Blog live blog of the Supreme Court session this morning.
The Court has released the opinion in Kennedy v. Louisiana (07-343), on whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits states from imposing the death penalty for child rape, and, if not, whether Louisiana’s statute fails to narrow the class of offenders eligible for the death penalty. The ruling below, which upheld the state law, is reversed and remanded.
Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion. Justice Alito dissented, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Thomas. We will provide a link to the decision as soon as it is available.
Here's more from Tom Goldstein:
Tom Goldstein - The Kennedy v. LA decision holds that the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional if the defendants' acts were not intended to cause death.
The opinion is here.