Death Penalty Unconstitutionality Essay - Essay Prowess

Death Penalty Unconstitutionality Essay


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Death Penalty Unconstitutionality

Is it unconstitutional to use the death penalty in the cases involving the rape of children?

A crime such as raping of children below the age of 12 years is perceived by the society and more so, the victim as one which requires a heavy sentence[1]. Criminal justice is, however, guided by legislation. Criminal justice is also dependent on the jurisdiction in which a crime was committed such that local, state and federal laws tend to define the sentencing accorded to defendants[2]. Federal law supersedes both local and state laws. This essay seeks to discuss whether the death penalty sentence for crimes involving raping of children is unconstitutional with respect to the Patrick Kennedy, Petitioner v. Louisiana and the Coker v. Georgia cases.

The American Constitution is the dominant piece of legislation in the US. In the two cases under discussion in this paper, the defendants were accused of raping children below the age of 13 years. Under the state laws of Georgia and Louisiana, such crimes were punishable by the death penalty[3]. Federal state governments have the power to enact laws that are deemed necessary by such states towards upholding their sovereignty. This is founded on the fact that the US allows for a dual system of governance.

In the US, the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment contains a clause which considers the viability of criminal sentencing laws passed by state governments[4]. The Supreme Court has over the years sought to incorporate aspects of ‘evolving standards of decency’ and ‘proportionality’ in the definition of the clause[5]. As such, as society and human development have progressed punishments have come to be perceived as requiring to respect human dignity. As such, where the crimes in the two cases mentioned above did not result in the death of the victims, the Eighth Amendment upholds that the respondents should desist from imposing capital punishment. Therefore, the Louisiana and Georgia statutes are unconstitutional according to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment.


Matthew Silversten, Sentencing Coker v. Georgia to Death: Capital Child Rape Statutes Provide the Supreme Court an Opportunity to Return Meaning to the Eighth Amendment. GONZAGA LAW REVIEW Vol. 37:1. (2001).

Supreme Court of the United States, Patrick Kennedy, Petitioner v. Louisiana on Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Louisiana. 554 U. S. ____ (2008)