Death penalty for child rapist goes to Supreme Court

The high court agrees to hear an appeal from a Louisiana man convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter. He would be the first to be executed for a crime other than murder in more than 40 years.

By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court said today it will decide whether a convicted child rapist can be put to death, thereby reconsidering a more than 40-year trend in the United States in which executions have been limited to murderers.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal from Patrick Kennedy, a Louisiana man who was convicted of the brutal rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. His lawyers described him has "the only person in the United States who is on death row for a non-homicide offense."

Rape was commonly prosecuted as a capital offense in the 19th and early 20th Century, particularly for blacks in the South. In May 1964, Missouri executed Ronald Wolfe for rape, the last such as execution in this country for a sexual assault that did not result in death.

In September 1964, Alabama electrocuted James Coburn for robbery, the last execution for "any non-homicide offense," according to the Stanford University Law School professors who appealed on Kennedy's behalf.

Capital punishment was suspended in the late 1960s, but the Supreme Court restored the death penalty as an option for the states in 1976.

Just a year later, however, the justices struck down the death penalty for a rapist from Georgia. "We have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which is unique in its severity and irrevocability, is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life," the high court said in Georgia vs. Coker. Full Story

[Ed: It is worth noting that, in this case, the perpetrator had, indeed, genuinely "raped" a young girl in a way in which we can all agree was non-consensual, violent and forcible. However, the term "child rape" does not always, nor even usually, mean that a sexual act was committed by force or with violence. "Child Rape" is yet another inflammatory term used to obfuscate the facts surrounding any case involving an adult and a juvenile. As with the term "sexual violence" , "child rape" as a specific criminal charge has been redefined nationwide to obscure the real dynamic of age-of-consent violations as a class of offenses. In these cases, terms such as "Rape" or "Sexual Violence" have been redefined by our lawmakers to mean simply that one of the parties was under the age of 18 and the other was over the age of 18 (these ages and conditions vary somewhat by state). The result is that we rarely know or are told by law enforcement or the media if force or violence was actually committed. Instead, the public is left to assume, wrongly as it so often turns out, that the charges brought against individuals are genuinely descriptive of the actiions for which they are being charged. So, in light of that, do we really want to start going down the road of executing "sexually violent" "child rapists"? Beyond that concern for justice, those depraved individuals who, like the Death Row Defendant in Louisiana, are genuinely dangerous to children and need to be removed from society may, because of their depravity, find that it makes some kind of twisted sense to simply KILL their victims rather than face them in a court in which the death penalty is in play.]

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