Great news for foes of state-sanctioned killing: The US Supreme Court, on the first day of its new session, announced it will not reconsider its June decision calling the death penalty unconstitutional punishment for the rape of a child.
From the NYT:
The court’s announcement that it would not rehear the case, which originated in Louisiana, was not a surprise, since petitions for rehearing cases already decided by the Supreme Court are very rarely granted. But the circumstances of the case, known as Kennedy v. Louisiana, were unusual, in that the arguments and deliberations were accompanied by a factual error that surfaced only after the justices ruled.
In its 5-to-4 decision in June, the court reasoned that, because so few states allowed the execution of child rapists, there was a national consensus against applying the ultimate punishment to such criminals. Not long afterward, it was disclosed that the lawyers arguing the case, and the justices themselves, had been unaware of a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, specifically making child rape committed by service members a capital crime.
Thus, the State of Louisiana argued in urging the justices to reopen the case, the high court should review its conclusion that there was a national consensus against the execution of child rapists.
Not so, Justice [Anthony M.] Kennedy wrote on Tuesday. The 2006 change to the military-justice code merely tinkered with a statute that had authorized capital punishment for the rapes of children (and adults) all along, he wrote. Besides, he said, “authorization of the death penalty in the military sphere does not indicate that penalty is constitutional in the civilian context.”
In the Louisiana case, Patrick Kennedy was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter. Joining Justice Kennedy in the majority ruling voiding the penalty in June were Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.