Louisiana Court OKs Death Penalty for Rape

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court in a 6-1 majority decision upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of raping an 8-year-old girl.

Patrick Kennedy is the only inmate on death row in the United States who was not convicted of committing or participating in a murder, officials say. The 42-year-old was indicted in 1998 for the aggravated rape of his stepdaughter. The death penalty was imposed on Kennedy following his conviction in 2003, even though the victim survived the attack.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the death penalty could not be imposed for the rape of adult women, because the penalty would be disproportionate to the crime. Such disproportionate sentencing constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, which is forbidden under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, legal experts say.

That Supreme Court ruling, however, did not broach the question of whether the death penalty could be applied to cases involving the rape of a child, experts say.

In 1995, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law permitting capital punishment for cases involving the rape of a child under 12. Since then, four other states — Georgia , Montana , Oklahoma and South Carolina — have enacted similar laws.

The Georgia law applies the death penalty to rape cases involving children younger than 10 years old. The other three states require multiple convictions for rape before the death sentence can be considered, officials say.

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