The Supreme Court overturned “a ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which had held that child rape is unique in the harm it inflicts not just upon the victim but on society and that, short of first-degree murder, no crime is more deserving of the death penalty.”
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child.” Justice Kennedy  was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

Justice Kennedy, while in no way minimizing the heinous nature of child rape, wrote that executing someone for that crime, assuming that the victim was not killed, violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, which draws it meaning from “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

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