A death penalty for repeat child molesters, which is under consideration by the Texas legislature, is unlikely to be upheld by the Supreme Court, say experts quoted by the Houston Chronicle. They point to high court rulings barring the death penalty for adult rape that does not end a life and banning its use for offenders who are mentally retarded or younger than 18 at the time of the crime. “One could think rather confidently that this would not be upheld,” said Lino Graglia, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas known for his conservative views. Of the five states allowing the death penalty for child rape, only one imposed that sentence, in the Louisiana case of pedophile Patrick Kennedy. That case is making its way through Louisiana state courts.
Still, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and lawmakers are talking tough and rallying around “Jessica’s Laws” they say will protect Texas children from the fate of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford of Florida. Said University of Texas Law professor Jordan Steiker, co-director of the law school’s Capital Punishment Center: “It strikes me that the debate is not being driven by careful concerns about constitutionality but by raw politics and emotions.” said Steiker, who personally opposes the death penalty and has represented inmates on death row. Prof. Graglia says the Supreme Court “has indicated that it will permit capital punishment only for murder.”