Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Political Theater: Oklahoma's Death for Child Rapist

The Oklahoman reported that the Oklahoma House voted 91-2 to force repeat child molesters to face possible penalties of life in prison or death.

Under current law, a child molester can face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for a first offense. The new legislation will increase the penalty to include a maximum sentence of life without parole.

It would also allow repeat offenders to face life without parole or the death penalty.

Representative Rex Duncan says the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst criminals. He says he believes people with a history of violently raping children fall into that category.

Oklahoma legislators obviously forgot about the 2008 U.S. Supreme Courts decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana. According to the New York Times, the Courts 5-to-4 decision overturned death penalty laws in Louisiana and five other states including Oklahoma. The court went beyond the question in the case-imposing the death penalty for child rape-to rule out the death penalty for any individual crime . . . where the victim’s life was not taken.

The case was an appeal by a Louisiana inmate, Patrick Kennedy. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 for raping his 8-year-old stepdaughter, whose injuries were severe enough to require emergency surgery. The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld Mr. Kennedy’s conviction and rejected his challenge to the constitutionality of his sentence. The High Court prohibited imposing the death penalty for child rape.

My Take

Oklahoma's effort to impose the death penalty on multiple child rapists is pure political theater. The legislature knows that the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed the death penalty for anything short of murder. The High Court would never let the state execute a child rapist.

However, the near unanimous vote on the issue sure makes House members look like no nonsense crime fighters. The reality is those same "lock 'em up" lawmakers are taking time and resources away from issues that could really make a difference to their constituents.

Read more: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-house-passes-death-penalty-bill-for-repeat-child-molesters/article/3443116#ixzz0h3vQLdXx

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