Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Pennsylvania legislator seeks death penalty for child rape in spite of SCOTUS ruling

 Pennsylvania House Bill 1909, introduced by state Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis, proposes the option of a death sentence for someone who is convicted of the rape of a child or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, reported the Uniontown Herald-Standard.

Who care if the U.S. Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Louisiana said “Informed by its own precedents and its understanding of the Constitution and the rights it secures, the Court concludes, in its independent judgment, that the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the crime of child rape.”

Currently, only those convicted of first-degree murder can be sentenced to death in Pennsylvania, should prosecutors opt to seek it.

Warner said he modeled the legislation after a Florida bill that gives jurors the options of sentencing a defendant in those types of cases to either life in prison or death.

The bill is in its early stages, having only just been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration, but if it makes it through the state legislature, chances are slim that it will have much impact during Gov. Josh Shapiro’s tenure, Warner acknowledged.

Shortly after he took office last year, Shapiro continued the moratorium on carrying out sentences of death in Pennsylvania, something put into place by his predecessor Gov. Tom Wolf in 2015. Shapiro also called upon state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty as a potential sentence, and vowed not to sign any warrants of execution.

There have been no executions in Pennsylvania since 1999.

As Warner’s bill begins moving through the process, lawmakers in the state House could also consider a diametrically opposed bill proposed by Philadelphia Democrat Rep. Christopher M. Rabb.

His bill seeks to repeal the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

Rabb’s measure was passed by the House Judicial Committee on Oct. 31. If it were enacted, Pennsylvania would be the 24th state to remove the death penalty as a potential sentence.

According to the state Department of Corrections, there are currently 98 people sitting on death row for first-degree murder convictions, including one each from cases in Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

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