Child Rapists: Should They Get the Death Penalty?

Suzanne Murray

lethal injection chamber
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Oklahoma is one of the thirty-five states that use the death penalty. There are various crimes in that state that can carry a punishment of death, but rape of a child is not currently one of them. Lawmakers hope to change that. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a measure that would allow the death penalty for convicted felons who rape a child age six and under.

Yet, just two years ago, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional as a punishment for child rape, and overturned death penalty laws in Louisiana and five other states.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said there was "a distinction between intentional first-degree murder on the one hand and non-homicide crimes against individual persons," even such "devastating" crimes as the rape of a child on the other.

Senator Anthony Sykes, the author of the Oklahoma Bill, says there are some key differences between the Oklahoma bill and those struck down by the Supreme Court, which he thinks will get the bill over the constitutionality hurdle. He plans to amend his bill to require a previous conviction for child rape and include the requirement that the rapist have the intent to kill the child.

The death penalty for child rape bill is controversial in Oklahoma so it remains to be seen if will even pass, never mind put to the Supreme Court test.

What do you think? Should child rapists get the death penalty?

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