( – promoted by buhdydharma )
cross posted from The Dream Antilles
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week that Louisiana’s statute permitting the death penalty for child rape was unconstitutional. The decision was a step against extending the barbarianism of the death penalty to crimes in which the victim was not killed.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the opinion, saying, in essence, that the crime, awful as it is, does not merit capital punishment.
“The incongruity between the crime of child rape and the harshness of the death penalty poses risks of over-punishment and counsels against a constitutional ruling that the death penalty can be expanded to include this offense,” Kennedy wrote.
He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
Put simply, a majority of the Supreme felt that as a substantive matter, the death penalty for child rape was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and could not be permitted.
And now, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, says that he disagrees with the ruling. This from AP:
Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision outlawing executions of people who rape children, a crime he said states have the right to consider for capital punishment.
“I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes,” Obama said at a news conference. “I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution.”
Obama, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, said that had the court “said we want to constrain the abilities of states to do this to make sure that it’s done in a careful and appropriate way, that would have been one thing. But it basically had a blanket prohibition and I disagree with that decision.”
Obama’s view boils down to this: if the death penalty is “done in a careful and appropriate way” (an oxymoron if I ever saw one) it’s ok for a state to expand the crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed. This is logic that would have Obama arguing that the 1977 decision in Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584 (1977), a “blanket prohibition” of execution for adult rape was incorrectly decided. Or that the decision in Roper v. Simmons, imposing a “blanket prohibition” against executing children was incorrectly decided. Didn’t Georgis and Kentucky think that these were appropriate cases for death that they would impose “in a careful and appropriate way”?
In fact, Obama’s argument sounds an awful lot like the 4 dissenting, conservative, pro-death penalty views in the Supreme Court:
The four members of the court’s conservative wing also sharply criticized the ruling, saying a small but growing number of states had determined that the rape of a child deserved the death penalty; they said the court majority was interfering with that judgment.
“The harm that is caused to the victims and to society at large by the worst child rapists is grave,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote. “It is the judgment of the Louisiana lawmakers and those in an increasing number of other states that these harms justify the death penalty.”
Alito was joined in his dissent by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
How wonderful. A states’ rights argument about state killing advanced by 4 conservative judges and Barack Obama.
And of course, John McSame, never to be left out of espousing barbarian views has the same position as Obama on the ruling:
His probable Republican opponent in the presidential race, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, also objected.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an assault on law enforcement’s efforts to punish these heinous felons for the most despicable crime,” McCain said. “That there is a judge anywhere in America who does not believe that the rape of a child represents the most heinous of crimes, which is deserving of the most serious of punishments, is profoundly disturbing.”
Both candidates for president and 4 justices of the Supreme Court all espouse an expansion of the crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed by states. This is not “hope”. This is barbarism, plain and simple. In a world in which the opinion is that the death penalty should be curtailed, the Democratic candidate is arguing for its expansion.
Obama’s just not going to have a Dukakis moment on the death penalty. If it would get him elected, he’d suggest that we use electric bleachers for mass executions of child rapists.
I’m deeply saddened but hardly surprised by Obama’s pandering. I only wish there were others who were as disgusted as I am who would call his campaign to task.