The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states cannot impose the death penalty on people who rape children. There's a debate in this country about whether we should have a death penalty at all, but since we do, why shouldn't the lowest forms of sexual predators be subject to it? To get an idea of the thinking behind the court's majority decision, here is an excerpt from an Associated Press story about the 5-4 ruling:
Rape and other crimes "may be as devastating in their harm ... but 'in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public,' they cannot be compared to murder in their 'severity and irrevocability,'" (Justice Anthony) Kennedy said, quoting from earlier decisions.
So, rapes can be as devastating as murder, but such crimes can't be compared to murder in their "severity." I'm guessing Justice Kennedy has never been the victim of rape. Nor have I. But while the suffering usually ends quickly for a murder victim, a person who is raped has to live with that horror for their rest of their life. And when a child is involved, it becomes even more heinous. I think it's highly appropriate to kill someone who would sexually assault a child, and I think the law approved in Texas in 2007 is a good framework for a national standard. The Texas measure allows imposition of the death penalty on a predator who is convicted twice of raping a child under the age of 14. The Supreme Court decision came in response to a case from Louisiana, where two men were under death sentences for raping girls under the age of 10. The author of that state's law, former Republican state Rep. Pete Schneider, had this to say to the five justices who overturned the measure: "When are you going to have the courage to stand up for what's right for all of the people - but especially the children ... that have been brutally raped by monsters?" That's a good question.