Interesting, but irrelevant

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 3, 2008

When our benevolent rulers on the Supreme Court decided last week that we had evolved past the point of punishing child rapists with the death penalty, part of the justification was the fact that so few jurisdictions had passed laws making the crime death penalty worthy.

This ignored the convenient fact that the Court itself had strongly suggested that such laws would be unconstitutional in a previous decision -- thereby discouraging legislators from attempting to pass those laws.

Still, it is more than a little surprising to find that in the 21st century with all its computer databases that everyone in the case -- including the justices themselves -- failed to notice what one blogger did: That the federal government, as part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, passed a law not two years ago allowing the death penalty for rape of a child.

This changes the number of laws struck down by the court from six to seven, but it is irrelevant all the same. The jurisdiction counting exercise by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the case was a facade. It was a feeble exercise of no particular importance to Kennedy himself. Every jurisdiction that allows the death penalty could have passed a law allowing it for the rape of a child and this court still would've overturned it.

It's not about the law. It's not about the constitution. It was never about either of them. All it was about was Kennedy getting a pat on the back from his fellow jurists when he goes off on these judicial junkets to Europe.

Of course, the ultimate irony for all this is in the New York Times report on this error.

And despite the flurry of activity surrounding the death penalty, the military has not in fact executed anyone for decades. Its last execution took place on April 13, 1961, when Pvt. John A. Bennett was put to death by hanging. His crime: the rape of an 11-year-old girl.

Justice Kennedy, I'm sure, can sleep well at night -- children, not so much.


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July 2008



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