As Doug Berman notes, the coverage of Kennedy v. Louisiana has begun with oral arguments on the horizon (April 16). Sex Crimes will be covering the case extensively starting this Monday. In the meantime, I'll be constantly updating the Kennedy v. Louisiana Resource Page with links about the case from all over the web. From USA Today:
The Supreme Court will weigh the constitutionality of the death penalty for child rape next week, in the case of a Louisiana man convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.
The dispute, closely followed by state officials, social workers and defendants' rights groups, marks the first time since 1977 that the justices will consider whether rape can be punished by death. The justices said no in the case three decades ago, involving a 16-year-old married woman whom the court referred to as an adult.
Several states, including Missouri, have signaled that if the court permits the death penalty for child rape in Louisiana, they may try to enact such laws. Five states already plainly allow capital punishment for raping young children. Social workers warn that if the court sanctions the penalty for child rape, it could further discourage reporting of the crime because in the majority of child sexual assaults, the attacker is a relative or friend of the victim.
The dispute the justices will hear next Wednesday arises as prosecutors nationwide are obtaining significantly fewer death sentences annually than a decade ago. A de facto moratorium on capital punishment is also in place while the Supreme Court considers a separate dispute over lethal injection.
Louisiana argues that national outrage over sex crimes against children, along with efforts by some states to make rape a death penalty offense, should lead the court to uphold a Louisiana death sentence for Patrick Kennedy.
The trend, asserts Juliet Clark, assistant Jefferson Parish district attorney, "strongly supports imposition of the death penalty for this exceedingly grave offense."
Kennedy's lawyer counters that there are signs that society believes death is excessive for rape, including that no one in America has been executed for any rape in more than 43 years. "Although rape is a very serious crime," attorney Jeffrey Fisher says, "no rapist should be punished more severely than the average … murderer, who by definition is not subject to capital punishment." The death penalty has traditionally been reserved for the worst of society's criminals.
Meanwhile, Berman also notes that Louisiana isn't standing pat with its continuing crackdown on sex crimes and sex offenders (hint: castration is back).