For decades, capital punishment has been reserved for those who have killed. But the Supreme Court has just granted review in a Louisiana case that could lead to re-examination of that axiom. Kennedy v. Louisiana is one of six cases the Court granted following its private conference this morning. The cases will be argued later this term.
In the death penalty case, which Legal Times previewed here, Patrick Kennedy was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter. He was sentenced to death under a 1995 state law that allows the death penalty in cases of aggravated rape when the victim is 12 or under. The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the sentence.
Kennedy, represented by Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey Fisher, argues that because he is the only person on death row in the U.S. who has not committed murder, the Eighth Amendment's protection against "cruel and unusual punishments" bars his execution. But Louisiana argues that under society's evolving standards, child rape is regarded as a crime punishable by death.