The Supreme Court will decide whether the Constitution allows the death penalty for the rape of a child, reports the New York Times. The new case, from Louisiana, is likely to be argued in April. No one has been executed in the U.S. for a crime other than murder since 1964. Of 3,300 inmates on death rows, only two–both in Louisiana–are facing execution for an offense that did not involve a killing. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from one of them, Patrick Kennedy, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter.
In 1977, the Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for rape. While that ruling did not discuss the rape of a child, the victim, although only 16, was a married woman who was raped at knifepoint. The decision has been widely understood as limiting the death penalty to the crime of murder. In recent years, several states, responding to public outcries about sex crimes against children, have amended their death penalty statutes to make the rape of a child a capital offense. The other states with similar provisions are Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.