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Rep. Dent Calls on Supreme Court to Reconsider Ruling Against Death Penalty for Child Rapists


Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Dent calls on Supreme Court to reconsider ruling against death penalty for child rapists

U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) has joined 84 members of Congress in requesting the United States Supreme Court reconsider a recent decision to make the death penalty off-limits as punishment for child rapists, citing a major flaw in the Court's legal justification.

Congressman Dent signed a letter to the Justices pointing out a significant inaccuracy in the majority's reasoning for the June 25 decision, Kennedy v. Louisiana, which included their assertion there was no "national consensus" for the acceptability of the death penalty for child rapists. However, this consensus was most recently affirmed in a bill—one which provided for the execution of convicted child rapists under the Uniform Code of Military Justice—that passed the House by a vote of 374-41, and the Senate by a vote of 95-0. These elected representatives comprise a majority of the people in the 50 states.

"When any Court - including the highest Court in the land -- determines a case on incorrect facts, it has a responsibility to reconsider it," Congressman Dent said. "What's more, the High Court has previously determined that states may exercise the death penalty for crimes that warrant it. These crimes generally are the most heinous committed by the most unrepentant and unredeemable of criminals. Child rapists fit that description. The immeasurable pain, anguish and life-long scars borne by a child under twelve who is brutally raped by an adult is a crime every bit as egregious as a homicide. The people have spoken on this issue through their elected representatives."

Full text of the letter appears below:

Dear Justices,

We were deeply dismayed by the Court's decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana on June 25, 2008, that failed to understand the immeasurable pain, anguish and life-long scars of children under twelve who are brutally raped by an adult and the legislative response that balanced that harm by making the death penalty the maximum punishment for these horrific crimes. However, we were even more troubled to learn that a central factual basis for the majority opinion was not only incomplete, but inaccurate.

Specifically, the Court in the majority opinion noted that in the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 Congress "expanded the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty is a permissible sen¬tence, including certain non-homicide offenses; but it did not do the same for child rape or abuse." The Court went on to state that "[t]he evidence of a national consensus with respect to the death penalty for child rapists … shows divided opinion but, on balance, an opinion against it." Further, the Court noted that "[t]hirty-seven jurisdictions—36 States plus the Federal Government—have the death penalty" but "only six of those jurisdictions author¬ize the death penalty for rape of a child."

Apparently, the Court was unaware of the "national consensus" on this issue enacted just two years ago. In particular, Congress in 2005 through the duly elected representatives from all across the country enacted the death penalty for child rapists under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That provision - Section 552(b) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (became Public Law No. 109-163 on January 6, 2006) - provides that until the President otherwise provides the punishment for the rape of a child may not exceed "death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct." In September 2007, President Bush issued Executive Order 13447 that codified the provisions of Public Law 109-163, including the provision of the death penalty for child rape, into the 2008 edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial. Accordingly, the Federal Government does indeed have the death penalty for the rape of a child.

More importantly, the adoption of that provision clearly demonstrated a "national consensus" of which the Justices were not aware. The provision was included in a bill that passed the House by a vote of 374-41, and the Senate by a vote of 95-0. In the House, the 374 Members supporting the bill represented all 50 states, while the 41 Members voting against the bill were from just 16 states and together none of those opposing the bill represented a majority of that state's Congressional delegation. In the Senate, both Senators from 45 States voted in favor of the bill. In addition, one Senator from the other five states supported the bill and no Senator voted in opposition; putting all 50 states in support of this provision.

As such, we the undersigned Members of Congress respectfully ask the Court to sua sponte withdraw its June 25, 2006 opinion in this matter and reconsider the case in light of the full and complete factual picture.

1. Aderholt, Robert B., AL (4th)
2. Akin, W. Todd, MO (2nd)
3. Alexander, Rodney, LA (5th)
4. Bachmann, Michele, MN (6th)
5. Barrett, J. Gresham, SC (3rd)
6. Bilirakis, Gus M., FL (9th)
7. Blackburn, Marsha, TN (7th)
8. Blunt, Roy, MO (7th)
9. Boehner, John A., OH (8th)
10. Boozman, John, AR (3rd)
11. Boustany, Charles, LA (7th)
12. Brady, Kevin, TX (8th)
13. Broun, Paul C., GA (10th)
14. Brown-Waite, Ginny, FL (5th)
15. Buyer, Steve, IN (4th)
16. Camp, Dave, MI (4th)
17. Cantor, Eric, VA (7th)
18. Carter, John R., TX (31st)
19. Chabot, Steve, OH (1st)
20. Cole, Tom, OK (4th)
21. Conaway, Michael, TX (11th)
22. Crenshaw, Ander, FL (4th)
23. Cubin, Barbara, WY (At Large)
24. Culberson, John, TX (7th)
25. Davis, David, TN (1st)
26. Davis, Geoff, KY (4th)
27. Dent, Charles W., PA (15th)
28. Duncan, John J., Jr., TN (2nd)
29. Feeney, Tom, FL (24th)
30. Forbes, J. Randy, VA (4th)
31. Foxx, Virginia, NC (5th)
32. Gohmert, Louie, TX (1st)
33. Goodlatte, Bob, VA (6th)
34. Granger, Kay, TX (12th)
35. Graves, Sam, MO (6th)
36. Hastings, Doc, WA (4th)
37. Hayes, Robin, NC (8th)
38. Heller, Dean, NV (2nd)
39. Hensarling, Jeb, TX (5th)
40. Hunter, Duncan, CA (52nd)
41. Johnson, Sam, TX (3rd)
42. Jones, Walter B., NC (3rd)
43. Jordan, Jim, OH (4th)

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