Justices to Weigh Death Penalty for Child Rape

Louisiana case seeks harsher punishment for crimes against children
By Greg Atwan,  Newser User
Posted Apr 14, 2008 9:02 AM CDT
Justice Antonin Scalia has viciously opposed the notion of "evolving standards of decency" on which Wednesday's case will rest.   (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court could forbid the death penalty for child rapists in a major upcoming decision, the Washington Post reports. On Wednesday, the court will hear the case of a Louisiana man who raped his 8-year-old stepdaughter so violently she needed surgery—a case that follows a series of landmark decisions that rolled back capital punishment for the mentally impaired and minors, in accordance with "evolving standards of decency."

The court eliminated the death penalty for rape in a 1977 case, but qualified that the 16-year-old victim was an adult. Louisiana lawyers claim their state is reflecting the will of the public to protect children, and that the previous erosions of capital punishment will lead to its eradication. Opponents say the death penalty is unfair to minorities and decreases reporting of assaults by family members.