Today, the US Supreme court overturned the Louisiana law permitting the execution of child rapists. (Video Here) The opinion of court, delivered by Justice Kennedy, states that the ruling was made on the basis of the Eighth Amendment. Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined the majority opinion while Justices Robert, Scalia, Souter, and Alito, who are conservative Justices, dissented.
It may be argued as to whether or not the death penalty it self is moral. However, the job of the Supreme Court is to interpret the constitution, not to decide upon what is moral and what is not. That decision belongs to the people through a democratic process. This is a case where the court is substituting its own morals for the morals of the people. The decision of the Supreme Court is unconstitutional. Since the death penalty has been ruled as constitutional, then it should be left up to the states to decide what crimes justify the death penalty.
The court arrived at this decision through deciding that a “national consensus” exists, which was derived through the fact that only 6 states allow the death penalty for child rape cases. However, as Justice Alito points out, state legislatures have had to live under the Coker decision for years. The Coker decision said that it was unconstitutional to use the death penalty in cases that involved the raping of an adult woman. They were afraid that any law allowing the death penalty for child rape would be struck down, like it has here. In this case, the fact most of the nation doesn’t allow the death penalty doesn’t show evidence of a national consensus because the states refuse to face the issue. Besides that fact, in the opinion for Coker decision, the word “adult” was used numerous times to describe the rape victim. This was intentional so that the same decision would not be applied to a case involving child rape.
Let’s change our frame of thought for a moment and face this from a moral stand point. In accordance with this decision, Justice Alito writes that a the criminal cannot be sentenced to death “no matter how young the child, no matter how, many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how much physical or psychological trauma is inflicted, and no matter how heinous the perpetrator’s prior criminal record may be.” What of that? What if the criminal raped multiple children? Still, the court says that it isn’t enough to justify the death penalty.
If were to read the full description of rape and the serious injuries inflicted upon this girl, I guarantee you would be sick to your stomach. There aren’t a lot of things that disturb me. When I read the description of L.H.’s injuries though, I felt as thought someone has torn out my innards. Were I not at work, there probably would have been tears. The court says that in accordance with the 8th amendment, the punishment must be proportional to the crime. What crime, besides murder, is worse than the rape of a child? In fact, it could be argued the raping is child is just as heinous as murder. Who wouldn’t agree that a child rapist lacks just as much of a moral compass as a murderer? I could say that a murder can have a greater morals than any child rapist.
This decision is one that is flawed. This is a decision where the court is using its own morals as a stand-in for the morals of the national consensus. It erodes the power of the states and more importantly, the power of the people. This decision is unquestionably unconstitutional.