[JURIST] A number of politicians have denounced Wednesday's US Supreme Court ruling [Kennedy v. Louisiana opinion text; JURIST report] that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for the rape of a child. At a press conference, Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-Ill) said [MSNBC report] that
[T]he rape of a small child, six or eight years old is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that does not violate our constitution.Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain (R-Ariz.) also disagreed with the ruling, commenting [press release]
That there is a judge anywhere in America who does not believe that the rape of a child represents the most heinous of crimes, which is deserving of the most serious of punishments, is profoundly disturbing.Alabama Attorney General Troy King called the Supreme Court's ruling unconstitutional [press release], while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal commented that the ruling "suppresses the constitutional authority of state legislatures" [press release]. Governor Jindal also said that Louisiana state officials would work to amend the statute to preserve the death penalty for child rapists. AP has more.
The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling held that the death penalty violates the Eight Amendment [text] protection against cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a crime in which the victim was not killed or which did not harm society in general, as with espionage or treason. Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death in Louisiana for raping a minor, one of the few remaining crimes where the death of a victim is not required for the death penalty. The Court found that in cases where the victim was not killed, the death penalty fails to serve "deterrent or retributive" purposes invoked for its use. The Court's holding in the case reversed a decision [PDF text] of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.