Is Rape Justification for Murder? An Examination of the Execution of Sex Offenders

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Spring 2008

Project Description/Abstract

In the case of Coker v. Georgia (1977) the Supreme Court ruled that executing an offender who had committed a non-lethal rape, was a “grossly disproportionate” punishment for that crime. In essence, the Court affirmed its prior decision in Gregg v. Georgia that capital punishment should be restricted to cases involving murder. Since 1997, over 1100 people have been executed, none who committed a non-lethal rape. In the last several years, six states have expanded their death penalty statutes to allow for the execution of child rapists. These seemingly unconstitutional statutes are the focus of this CART FLRG research. This research will examine the politics, history, legality and contemporary issues associated with the execution of sex offenders. The study will examine executions for rape prior to 1972. Additionally the study will examine the states who have passed execution statutes for sex offenders. Particular attention will be paid to the case of Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy is one of two sex offenders on death row in Louisiana. In 2008, the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case and will determine whether the death penalty will be expanded to those who have not committed murder. At the study’s completion, the findings will be disseminated to criminal justice journals and the greater BSC community.

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