WASHINGTON (CN) – A deeply divided Supreme Court rejected the death penalty as a punishment for child rape, saying it violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The high court relied on a “national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape” in determining that the punishment did not fit the crime.
The ruling overturns the death sentence imposed on Louisiana resident Patrick Kennedy, who was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.
Justice Kennedy said Louisiana’s law allowing the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional. Louisiana is one of 14 states that authorize capital punishment for non-homicidal crimes, only five of which allow the death penalty for child rape.
The majority cited several reasons why child rape should not be punished as severely as murder, including that it might remove the incentive for rapists not to kill their victims. Kennedy said the death penalty “must be reserved for the worst of crimes and limited in its instances of application.”
Justice Alito said the rape at issue in this case was heinous enough to deserve the death penalty, and the majority’s “sweeping conclusion” ignores the severity and sadistic nature of some child rape cases.
The petitioner in this case called the cops to report that two neighborhood boys had raped his stepdaughter in the garage. Police arrived to find her wrapped in a bloody blanket, bleeding profusely from her vagina. An expert in pediatric forensic medicine said the girl’s injuries – which required emergency surgery – were the most severe he had seen in a sexual assault in his four years of practice.
The petitioner’s story fell apart when police learned that he made several phone calls before calling police, including one to a colleague, asking how to remove blood stains from white carpet because his daughter had “just become a young lady.” He also called a professional carpet-cleaning service. He did not call 911 until about an hour and a half later.