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April 22, 2024

Tennessee poised to become second state to authorize the death penalty for child rape since SCOTUS prohibition

As reported in this local piece from Tennessee, a "controversial bill that would allow the state to seek the death penalty for those convicted of rape of a child passed the House of Representatives Monday, clearing the final legislative hurdle before becoming law in Tennessee."  Here are the basics:

HB1663, by House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), would allow for those convicted of rape or especially aggravated rape of a child in Tennessee to be sentenced to death.

The move received considerable pushback from Democrats, who argued the General Assembly was passing a blatantly unconstitutional law.  The bill was also not favored by Sen. Kerry Roberts, who said while he disagreed with the Supreme Court decisions that made and affirmed that the death penalty was considered cruel and unusual punishment, passing the law was not going to help overturn Kennedy v. Louisiana, as some of his colleagues might hope it would.

Despite attempts to amend the bill by Roberts, the Senate adopted the bill 24-5, with Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) joining Democrats opposed. The last stop for the bill in the legislative branch was the House Monday, April 22....  Ultimately, the bill passed on party lines, 77-19-1, with Clarksville Democrat Ronnie Glynn Present Not Voting.

The bill now heads to Gov. Bill Lee‘s desk for his signature. News 2 has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

I expect that Gov Lee would be likely to sign this legislation (especially since it would seem any veto could be overridden). When this bill becomes law, Tennessee will join Florida in having a modern capital child rape statute despite the Supreme Court's ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008), that the Eighth Amendment bars states from imposing the death penalty for the rape of a child.

Florida's capital child rape statute has yet to produce a death sentence that might become a new test case for the Kennedy ruling.  I predicted in this prior post that it might be many, many years before such a case gets to the Supreme Court.  More states having capital child rape laws on the books surely make a test case that much more likely.

Prior related posts:

April 22, 2024 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

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