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Sen. Cornyn Co-Sponsors Resolution Opposing Supreme Court's Ruling On Death Penalty For Child Rapists

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Location: Washington, DC


Sen. Cornyn Co-Sponsors Resolution Opposing Supreme Court's Ruling On Death Penalty For Child Rapists

I hope that the Supreme Court grants the petition for a rehearing and reverses its erroneous decision

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, joined his colleagues in introducing a resolution yesterday expressing the Senate's disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling that the death penalty for child rapists is unconstitutional.

On June 25, 2008, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Kennedy v. Louisiana, striking down the death sentence of Patrick Kennedy, a Louisiana man who brutally raped his 8 year-old stepdaughter. In a narrow, 5-4 opinion, the Court ruled that the death penalty is always an unconstitutional punishment for the crime of child rape, invalidating the Louisiana law imposing that sentence. The ruling also invalidates similar laws in Texas, four other states and in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Louisiana has filed a petition for the Court to rehear the case, based on the fact that, at the time that the Court rendered the Kennedy decision, it was unaware of the 2006 federal law making child rapists death eligible under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

"Child rapists are the worst of the worst. Their crimes rob children of their innocence, injuring them in ways from which they can never fully recover. If a jury determines that a child rapist deserves the death penalty, then that penalty is appropriate, given the unspeakably depraved nature of this crime," Sen. Cornyn said.

"The Court based its decision on its perception of a ‘national consensus,' ‘evolving standards of decency' and its ‘own independent judgment.' None of these standards are to be found anywhere in the Constitution. In a democracy, the appropriate way to determine a ‘national consensus' reflecting ‘standards of decency' is through the democratic process. The people's elected representatives in Louisiana, Texas, and the federal government have all agreed that the death penalty is not a ‘cruel and unusual punishment' for child rapists. In striking down this penalty, the Supreme Court substituted its own will for the will of the people, as expressed by the people's elected representatives and the Louisiana jury who found that Patrick Kennedy should be put to death for his heinous crime.

"Because the Supreme Court's opinion was rendered under the mistaken belief that federal law precluded the death penalty for child rape, the Court should grant Louisiana's petition for rehearing. If any body in our federal government is qualified to express a ‘national consensus,' it is the elected branches of government—the Congress and the President—and not the Supreme Court. Those elected branches endorsed the death penalty for child rapists in a federal law passed just two years ago. I hope that the Supreme Court grants the petition for a rehearing and reverses its erroneous decision," Sen. Cornyn concluded.


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