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The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that it's unconstitutional for Louisiana to impose the death penalty on prisoners who have been convicted of raping children.

USA TODAY's Joan Biskupic reports that today’s case marked the first time since 1977 that the justices considered whether the crime of rape could be punished by death.

In the case three decades ago, involving an adult woman, the justices said no.

Currently, five states, including Louisiana, have laws on the books that permit the death penalty for child rape. Several other states, including Missouri, had signaled that if the court allowed the death penalty for child rape, they would try to enact such statutes.

Prosecutors, defense lawyers and social workers nationwide had been closely watching Kennedy v. Louisiana. Read the court's ruling here.

Update at 10:17 a.m. ET: Justice Anthony Kennedy writes in the 5-4 decision that "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child."

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET: Here's an excerpt from the majority's decision:

Petitioner’s crime was one that cannot be recounted in these pages in a way sufficient to capture in full the hurt and horror inflicted on his victim or to convey the revulsion society, and the jury that represents it, sought to express by sentencing petitioner to death.

... Based both on consensus and our own independent judgment, our holding is that a death sentence for one who raped but did not kill a child, and who did not intend to assist another in killing the child, is unconstitutional under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

... The evidence of a national consensus with respect to the death penalty for child rapists, as with respect to juveniles, mentally retarded offenders, and vicarious felony murderers, shows divided opinion but, on balance, an opinion against it. Thirty-seven jurisdictions—36 States plus the Federal Government—have the death penalty. As mentioned above, only six of those jurisdictions authorize the death penalty for rape of a child. Though our review of national consensus is not confined to tallying the number of States with applicable death penalty legislation, it is of significance that, in 45 jurisdictions, petitioner could not be executed for child rape of any kind.

... punishment by death may not result in more deterrence or more effective enforcement. In addition, by in effect making the punishment for child rape and murder equivalent, a State that punishes child rape by death may remove a strong incentive for the rapist not to kill the victim. Assuming the offender behaves in a rational way, as one must to justify the penalty on grounds of deterrence, the penalty in some respects gives less protection, not more, to the victim, who is often the sole witness to the crime.

...Each of these propositions, standing alone, might not establish the unconstitutionality of the death penalty for the crime of child rape. Taken in sum, however, they demonstrate the serious negative consequences of making child rape a capital offense. These considerations lead us to conclude, in our independent judgment, that the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child.

http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2008/06/supreme-court-s.html?loc=interstitialskip
 

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Child molesters don't fair to well in prison. The death penalty might be letting them off too easy!
 

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Unfortunately the Courts at times seem to be unwilling to impose the death penalty even when the crimes fit the guide lines for capital punishment, as is the case below.......



Life for R.I. child-killer's 'unforgivable' crime
By ERIC TUCKER

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A man who admitted raping and strangling an 8-year-old neighbor was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after he called his actions ``despicable and unforgivable.''

Joshua Davis of Woonsocket was given the maximum sentence for the abduction and death of Savannah Smith on May 7, 2006.

Davis said drugs and alcohol had ruined his life and told the girl's family that he could not imagine the heartache he had caused them.

Davis pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder and other crimes, admitting he abducted Smith from a park near her home in Woonsocket and drove her south to a wooded section of Cranston, where he raped, strangled and beat her.

Smith's mother, Lisa Smith, called Davis ``the lowest piece of scum that this earth has.''

``I want him to die in prison,'' she added. ``I'll never get my baby back.''

Prosecutor Bethany Macktaz said Davis was a calculating killer who boasted later in a letter from prison that ``I enjoyed my catch.''

``Are these the actions of a man with a chance for rehabilitation or are these the acts of a man with no soul?'' Macktaz asked.

Davis's lawyer, John Hardiman, argued that Davis should have a chance at parole because he immediately cooperated with police by leading officers to the scene of the murder and accepted responsibility for his acts by pleading guilty.

Hardiman said Davis drank two 12-packs of beer on the day of the murder and was high on drugs.

Davis also will serve consecutive life sentences for first-degree child molestation and kidnapping a minor.
 
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