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Smith Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Protect Child Victims of Forcible Rape

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Smith Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Protect Child Victims of Forcible Rape

Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced a resolution to amend the U.S. Constitution to permit the death penalty as a punishment for the rape of a child under the age of twelve. Ranking Member Smith was joined by Congressmen Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Tom Feeney (R-Florida) and Ric Keller (R-Florida) in introducing the resolution.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional when administered for the forcible rape of a child, ruling that it constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment." The 5-4 decision has generated sharp criticism from politicians and lawmakers across the nation.

The Republican Members issued the following statements regarding the Supreme Court's ruling and the proposed amendment:

Ranking Member Smith: "The forcible rape of a child is one of the most heinous and despicable crimes. States, with the approval of their legislatures, should be able to impose the maximum punishment for a crime that may not constitute murder in the legal sense, but certainly results in the death of youthful innocence and the carefree joys of childhood. This proposed amendment would not mandate the death penalty, but would allow states to choose whether the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for the forcible rape of a child. I urge my colleagues to support this resolution and protect America's most vulnerable victims."

Congressman Chabot: "The Supreme Court's decision yesterday is a travesty to society. Children look to their parents, family, and to the criminal justice system for protection. What message does it send to our kids that we will put the interests of pedophiles and abusers ahead of the interests of our children? It's inexcusable. The constitutional amendment that we are introducing today ensures that those who seek to harm our children in unspeakable ways can receive the ultimate punishment—the death penalty."

Congressman Keller: "I am deeply concerned with yesterday's Supreme Court decision. That is why I am cosponsoring this constitutional amendment that addresses the Court's shortsighted decision regarding the death penalty and child rape. It is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the most vulnerable members of our society: children. The aggravated rape of an eight-year-old girl is so heinous that the death penalty is warranted."

The proposed amendment (H.J. Res. 96) clarifies what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" under the 8th Amendment. The amendment declares that imposing the death penalty as punishment for the forcible rape of a child under the age of 12 is not "cruel and unusual."

A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and then ratified by at least three-fourths of the states in order to become law.

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