Criminal Justice

Another state approves death penalty for child rape

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AP Tennessee Gov Bill Lee_600px

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during a news conference at the end of the 2024 legislative session on April 25 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by George Walker IV/The Associated Press)

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill last week that authorizes the death penalty for aggravated rape of a child by an adult.

The new law takes effect July 1, the Associated Press reports. People convicted of the crime can be sentenced to death or to life imprisonment, with or without the possibility of parole.

A Florida bill signed about a year ago by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also permits the death penalty for child rape, according to USA Today.

Supporters of the laws hope that they will lead the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 5-4 decision in 2008 that said the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional in cases that don’t result in death.

Then-Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision in the 2008 case, Kennedy v. Louisiana.

Citing “evolving standards of decency,” Kennedy said the death penalty for child rapists violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Three of the dissenters remain on the Supreme Court, while no justice in the majority remains, according to an op-ed by one of the sponsors of the Tennessee bill, Republican Tennessee State Sen. Jack Johnson.

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