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November 15, 2007

Louisiana and amici file SCOTUS briefs in capital child rape case

As detailed in this long and thoughtful post at SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston reports on the breif filed by the state of Louisiana defending its statute making child rape a death penalty eligible crime.  Here are snippets of the post (with a link to filings):

Louisiana officials have urged the Supreme Court to allow the state to continue to seek the death penalty for those convicted of child rape. In a brief in opposition (found here) filed on Wednesday, the state argued that there is a distinct trend across the country to impose death sentences for crimes that do not result in death of any victim.  In addition, it said, more states are opting to pass laws to make child rape a capital crime....

Arguing that such a sentence fits the crime, the state said that “the harm inflicted upon a child when raped is tremendous,” and that “sex offenses against children cause untold psychological harm not only to the victim but also to generations to come….Execution of child rapists will serve the goals of deterrence and retribution as well as the execution of first-degree murderers.”

[Defendant] Kennedy’s appeal is now supported by the National Association of Social Workers and a group sexual assault crisis centers, arguing that the Louisiana law goes too far by providing for a possible death sentence for any act of oral, anal or vaginal sex with a child under age 13 and thus will encourage offenders “to kill their victims.”  Another amicus, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, argued that the unreliability of child victim testimony makes it “far too likely” that the death sentence may actually be imposed on the innocent.  A group of public defenders in Louisiana also supported the appeal, arguing that they must prepare to defend anyone accused of child rape as if it were a capital case, even though prosecutors often reduce the charge to a non-capital offense; public defenders thus must spend limited resources in cases that may never turn out to be capital, after all. Thus, they contended, they need the uncertainty over the validity of the Louisiana law cleared up as soon as possible.  The briefs of amici can be found here and here and here.

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November 15, 2007 at 09:18 PM | Permalink


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Is it me, or does Louisiana's Brief in Opposition to Cert. read more like a merits brief, almost guaranteeing that the SCOTUS will grant cert?

Posted by: Da Man | Nov 15, 2007 9:53:08 PM

I agree with DA Man. Of course, I also think that the state wants explicit approval of these killings.

Posted by: S.cotus | Nov 16, 2007 11:00:57 AM

The state supreme court practically asked the SCOTUS to review its decision. And given the popularity of these laws in some states it is probably wise to have the Court review it now.

As an aside, the last time anyone was executed for a crime other than murder was in 1964; much has changed in 43 years. Kennedy is the only person on death row for a crime that did not involve murder.

I do agree with the state supreme court that the policy arguments being advanced (i.e., it will encourage more child murders) are properly the domain of the legislative branch; that doesn't seem to fit very well in an 8th amendment analysis.

Posted by: Alec | Nov 16, 2007 2:55:47 PM

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