The Louisiana Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of raping an 8-year-old girl, the New York Times reports. Experts say Patrick Kennedy is the only U.S. death row inmate who was not convicted of committing or participating in a killing. “Looming over this case,” Justice Jeffrey Victory wrote for the majority in the 6-to-1 decision, “is the potential for the defendant to be the first person executed for committing an aggravated rape in which the victim survived” since enactment of a 1995 state law that allows capital punishment for the rape of a child under 12.
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could not be imposed for the rape of an adult woman. The justices said the penalty would be disproportionate to the crime and was barred as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. They left open the question of whether child rapists might be sentenced to death. There has not been an execution for rape in the United States since 1964, and no one has been executed for a crime that did not involve a killing since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. On Friday, the Texas legislature approved a bill allowing the death penalty for those convicted of multiple rapes of children under 14. Gov. Rick Perry is likely to sign it.