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US Supreme Court declines to rehear child rape case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday declined to reconsider last term's decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana [Duke Law backgrounder; JURIST report], holding that Louisiana could not impose the death penalty for the rape of a child. The court voted 7-2 to reject federal and state prosecutors' petitions [JURIST report] for rehearing of the case. In the court's modified opinion [PDF text] released Wednesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a footnote:

When issued and announced on June 25, 2008, the Court's decision neither noted nor discussed the military penalty for rape under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. ... In a petition for rehearing respondent argues that the military penalty bears on our consideration of the question in this case. For the reasons set forth in the [forthcoming] statement respecting the denial of rehearing ... we find that the military penalty does not affect our reasoning or conclusions.
In its original decision in the case, the Court had incorrectly noted that there were no federal laws allowing capital punishment for rape. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] later acknowledged [JURIST report] that it had mistakenly failed to include in its brief the existence of a military law [PDF text] allowing the death penalty for child rape. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage. From New Orleans, the Times-Picayune has local coverage.

Ruling on the Kennedy case in June, a five-member majority of the Court held [opinion text; dissent text] that the death sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a crime in which the victim was not killed. Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death in Louisiana for raping a minor, one of the few remaining crimes where the death of a victim is not required for the death penalty. The Court found that in cases where the victim was not killed, the death penalty fails to serve "deterrent or retributive" purposes invoked for its use. The decision reversed and remanded a holding [PDF text] by the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

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