With the Respondent's brief in Kennedy v. Louisiana today, I have the case on my mind. One of the key points in the matter will be whether there is an "evolving" trend toward applying the death penalty to the crime of child rape. I think this is a very hard argument for the state to make since only 5 states currently have such laws. However, I wonder if the state will cite this recent discussion in Colorado to support its argument:
Colorado could put child rapists to death under a bill that won a Senate committee's approval Monday and would put the state on par with just five others that allow the execution of such sex offenders.
Prosecutors could try for the death penalty in cases in which rape victims are 12 or younger, where DNA evidence is present and where the perpetrator has been previously convicted of a sex offense against a child.
The harsher sentences might run afoul of the Constitution — the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the issue this year — and could discourage victims from reporting abuse by relatives, according to critics, who include victims' rights advocates.
But some of the most terrible offenders simply deserve death, said sponsor Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton. He referred to a Louisiana man who raped his 8-year-old stepdaughter and became the first such offender in the nation to receive a death sentence.
"The crimes we're looking at are particularly heinous," Ward said.
Colorado public defenders, who oppose the bill, originally estimated that it would make about 260 people a year eligible for the death penalty. It was unclear what an amendment, which limits the bill to repeat offenders, would do to that estimate.
I think it would be a mistake for the USSC to consider mere discussions of applying the death penalty as part of a trend. Sex crime laws often score political points and are easy bills for legislators to discuss for entirely political reasons. As such, the discussions are hardly representative of a real trend toward applying the death penalty in such cases. Many legislators have contemplated capital child rape laws, but just a few have adopted them. And given that Missouri recently repealed its law, the trend may already be stalling in its tracks.