Last week the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Constitution allows the death penalty for child rape. Sadly, this may be one case where bad facts make bad law. Although the rape in question caused horrific injuries to an 8 year old girl, there was no physical evidence linking defendant Patrick Kennedy to the crime. The conviction was based on largely circumstantial evidence and the victim's changed testimony which only fingered the defendant 20 months after the crime.
In reality Kennedy, who is girl's stepfather, is probably guilty and should be killed. Unfortunately the lack of hard evidence might give even the most seasoned conservative jurist pause.
In a world where pedophiles like Matthew Mancuso* and countless others revel in photographing and videoing their depraved crimes, it should be easy to find a child rapist who is unequivocally guilty and unconditionally worthy of the death penalty. Many of these guys even boast about their "preference" for little girls or boys, as if it were a lifestyle choice. The Kennedy v. Louisiana case, lacking pictorial zing documenting what really happened, might not spark enough calculated reflection that the seriousness of the crime does indeed merit death.
In 1977 the Supreme Court, in a case involving the rape of a 16 year old married woman, declared that regardless of whether state law makes capital punishment mandatory or discretionary, it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for a state to impose the death penalty for the crime of aggravated rape not resulting in death. In response to these decisions, Louisiana and the handful of other states in the country with similar laws ceased seeking death sentences in rape cases. As a result, no person has been executed in this country for rape in over 40 years.
In recent years a handful of states, responding to public outcries about sex crimes against children, have amended their death penalty statutes to make child rape a capital offense. Louisiana was the first to do so, amending its death-penalty law in 1995 to apply to the rape of a child under age 12. Other states with similar provisions are Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
Currently just two men sit on death row in the United States for child rape. Patrick Kennedy is one of them. After the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld his death penalty, Kennedy appealed to the United States Supreme Court which agreed to hear his case.
NASW Coddles Child Rapists
The briefs are filed and the Court will likely hear the case in April. By far the best brief, required reading in fact, is by the National Association of Social Workers as amici curiae (Latin for "friend of the court"). As friendly as they are to the Court, NASW is clearly not a friend of child victims.
NASW begins their brief by reminding us that "as part of its mission to improve the quality and effectiveness of social work practice—including with respect to the detection, treatment, and prevention of child sexual abuse—NASW promulgates professional standards and the NASW Code of Ethics, conducts research, provides continuing education, and advocates for sound public policies." Given the state of social work practice in the country, this all sounds like a breath of fresh air.
NASW then claims that it has "particular insight into the degree to which child rape is a terrible crime that greatly harms its victims." Undoubtedly NASW is on the front lines in the war against child abuse and exploitation.
So given everything—their professional standards, Code of Ethics, research, and front line experience—why does the NASW believe that the death penalty for child rape "undermines that quest" of "ending the scourge of sexual violence against children and aiding its victims?"
Their rationale: the "statute provides that any act of oral-genital contact or anal or vaginal penetration of a child under the age of 13 years is a capital offense. By permitting the execution of perpetrators of child sexual abuse, the statute will likely have exactly the wrong effect: rather than protecting children, this statute will increase the number of victimized children, encourage offenders to kill their victims, and interfere with victims’ healing process."
Readers of this blog are encouraged to read the brief and help me understand the following statements [my inflammatory responses are highlighted below each statement]:
- Victims and other family members may fear the consequences of the abuser’s prosecution and incarceration. Louisiana’s capital rape statute dramatically aggravates this problem. pp. 3-4
[Perhaps the victim's greatest fear is that the abuser will someday go free, having "paid his debt to society," or escape conviction altogether due to a "legal technicality."]
- Because Louisiana’s penalty scheme does away with the marginal deterrence that is a central
feature of punishment theory, the scheme will also encourage abusers to kill their victims. p. 4
[Punishment theory? Sounds like undefined-apologist-pseudo-social-science. How about this as a punishment theory almost everyone can understand: rape a child and you die, rape a child and kill a child and you die.]
- Even were Louisiana’s penalty scheme to function as the legislature presumably hoped—i.e.,
with abusers brought to trial and child victims testifying against them—Louisiana’s law would magnify the trauma that child victims experience in the criminal justice process. p. 4
[See my comment to #1. See my comments about Matthew Mancuso and the photo-happy pedophiles unabashed candidates for the death penalty [2007 Pedophile Roundup - the Year in Review is a good start]. The worldwide exposure from the child pornography produced by many of these rapists will have a much more devastating long term effect on victims than testifying for an hour or two. And if the current criminal justice process is so bad then FIX THE PROCESS instead of coddling the perpetrators.]
- Not only is increased exposure to trials known to hinder child victims’ healing process, but the imposition of a death sentence will add to the guilt child victims sometimes feel and may preclude the possibility of a future therapeutic meeting between the victim and his or her abuser. p. 5
[The possibility of a "future therapeutic meeting between the victim and abuser" is not only an absurd reason to oppose the death penalty, but it is totally devoid of even pseudo-science references by the ever liberally-citing NASW. Where's the beef on this one folks? If the victim wants a therapeutic meeting they can hold a séance which might actually prove more therapeutic than many of the healing processes currently employed.]
- Victims are inhibited from coming forward out of shame, fear of being punished, and fear that the abuser will retaliate against the victim or other family members. p. 8
[Abusers who are dead can't retaliate against the victim or anyone else. Let Satan handle the retaliation and victims and their families will all sleep a lot better]
- Other relatives may also be reluctant to disclose abuse for related reasons: because of their positive feelings for the abuser or because they fear the collateral consequences to themselves or the family if they disclose the abuse. p. 9
[The simple solution to this problem is to give these aiders and abettors the death penalty too as accomplices to the crime. That should ease their "reluctance to disclose" and turn any "positive feelings for the abuser" into an us versus them mentality. Clearly this is punishment theory at its finest.]
- As states have enacting statutes mandating that health professionals report child abuse, the actual number of reports has declined, apparently because families decide not to go to professionals when they know that doing so will mean that the abuse will be reported to authorities. p. 9
[NASW logic at its finest: the solution to the underreporting of child rape is to repeal the mandatory child abuse reporting laws and eliminate punishment for perpetrators so social workers can implement family preservation on wayward but well-meaning clients whose only sin is making bad choices and exhibiting poor impulse control… If the séance doesn't work then perhaps an exorcism will!]
- Likewise, a non-offending family member, already facing “a difficult decision to make,” will face an even harder choice. Instead of encouraging the best positioned witnesses—the victim and other family members—to report abuse, Louisiana’s law will reinforce the internal constraints that victims and their family members may already feel. p. 10
[See my comment to #6 about killing the aiders and abettors.]
- The damage caused by Louisiana’s statute will not be limited to predators’ current victims. “Sex
offenders who are not arrested, convicted, and sent to prison remain free to commit more sex crimes.” p. 11
[Sex offenders who are DEAD will not commit any more sex crimes.]
- The increasing number of victims mean that more former abuse victims will ultimately leave the state, emigrating with the burdens that Louisiana’s law makes worse. p. 12
[Given this logic, eventually the State of Louisiana will be populated only by sex offenders. With no further victims to abuse, Louisiana can easily be turned into a pedo-penal colony and, given the frequent hurricanes in the area, the state will be spared the cost of implementing the death penalty when the final big storm wipes everyone out. See my comment to #5 about Satan and retaliation.]
- It is well established that sexually abused children find the criminal justice process to be highly
traumatic. Louisiana’s statute will greatly increase the extent of this trauma. p. 14
[FIX THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. The statute didn't traumatize these kids, the pedo-perpetrators did!]
- Finally, the fact that the abuser ultimately is executed precludes the option of future healing through a possible structured visit, which provides the victim with the opportunity to confront his or her abuser. pp. 19-20
[See my comment to #5 concerning séances]
* (Mancuso initially faced eight counts of capital sexual battery which could have made him eligible for the death penalty. Despite the fact that there were pictures of him raping his 10 year old adopted daughter, Mancuso was allowed to plead guilty to attempted sexual battery. According to Florida law, "criminal attempt" means a person who attempts to commit an offense but fails in the perpetration of that offense. Inexplicably, Mancuso was allowed to plead down from a death sentence to just 14 years in prison. Maybe having pictures as evidence doesn't matter after all.)