Supreme Court to Hear Child Rapist's Death Penalty Appeal

Executions limited to murderers since 1964
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2008 5:18 PM CST
The steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building are shown in this 2000 file photo in Washington. The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether a state can execute someone convicted of raping a child,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court today agreed to hear the case of a Louisiana man sentenced to death in the brutal rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. His attorneys say Patrick Kennedy is "the only person in the United States who is on death row for a non-homicide offense." A 1977 Court decision put a stop the death penalty for acts short of murder.

If upheld, the sentence would end a 43-year trend of executing only murderers, although before 1963, capital punishment was common for rapists, especially black males, the Los Angeles Times reports. "This court should pause before condoning a practice so heavily tinged with the scourge of racism," said an attorney for Fitzgerald, 43, who is black and has an IQ of 70.