Lousiana Supreme Court and ReportersWashington, DC-The Supreme court ruled today that the death penalty for child rapists is “too severe”, putting aside the “years of long anguish” for the victims’ lifetime, the ruling restricts the death penalty to murder and crimes against the state.

The court’s 5 to4 decision knocked out a Louisiana law that allowed capital punishment for people convicted of raping children under the age of 12. It saved the only people in the U.S. given sentences of death for that crime _ two Louisiana men (Patrick Kennedy and Richard Davis) convicted of raping girls 8 and 5 years old.

The ruling also nulls laws on the books in five other states that permitted executions for child rape that doesn’t result in the death of the victim.

“However devastating the crime to children”, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, “the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child.” His four liberal colleagues agreed ,but four more conservative justices dissented.

The fact that there as not been an execution in the United States for a crime that did not also involve the death of the victim in 44 years, apparently played a big factor in Justice Kennedy’s decision.

“Rape and other crimes “may be as devastating in their harm, but ‘in terms of moral depravity and the injury to the person and to the public,’ they cannot be compared to murder in their ‘severity and irrevocability,'” Kennedy said, quoting from earlier decisions.

The victim in the case which was decided on Wednesday was an 8-year-old girl raped by her stepfather at their home in Harvey, La., outside New Orleans. (see Louisianna v. Patrick Kennedy here) Louisianans who had supported the law said “the court was out of touch”.

“The opinion reads more like an out-of-control legislative debate than a constitutional analysis,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. “One thing is clear: The five members of the court who issued the opinion do not share the same ‘standards of decency‘ as the people of Louisiana.”

Source: Associated Press-Mark Sherman and Janet McConnaughey

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