The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to overturn a Louisiana statute imposing the death penalty for child rape has caused quite a bit of conversation among conservatives.
It shouldn’t. The death penalty is not appropriate for child rapists and in fact is likely to be counterproductive. Capital punishment should be reserved for one type or offender only — murderers, particularly people who commit murders in the course of another crime.
It’s easy to get emotional and to want to inflict capital punishment on anyone who commits a heinous act such as child rape. But that doesn’t accomplish anything or protect anybody. There is only one reason for imposing capital punishment, and it’s a good one. That is to draw a bright red line between felonies — crimes that can earn you long prison time — and felony murder — killing someone in order to eliminate the principal witness to the crime.
Child rape falls right square in that category. It’s a heinous crime but it does not kill the victim. If the penalty for child rape is death and the penalty for child rape and murdering the victim is also death, then there’s really no penalty for killing the victim and eliminating the principal witness to the crime. All criminals know this. It’s the legislators and anti-death-penalty crusaders — and even advocates of the death penalty for lesser crimes — who can’t seem to get it through their heads.p> IN THE EARLY DAYS of criminal reform — say around the 18th century — people were being hung for crimes as trivial as pickpocketing. Baron de Montesquieu, the great French legal philosopher, was one of the great minds who saw the folly of this overzealous application. In The Spirit of the Laws (1748) he wrote: br> /p>
It is a great abuse among us to condemn to the same punishment a person what only robs on the highway and another who robs and murders. Surely, for the public security, some difference should be made in the punishment.br> The great accomplishment of death penalty reformers was to have capital punishment limited only to murder. That way robbers and rapists knew the rules — you stick up your victim and get caught, you go to jail. You stick up your victim and murder them in the process, you go to the electric chair.
In China, those who add robbery to murder are cut in pieces: but not so the others; to this difference it is owing that though they rob in that country they never murder. In Russia, where the punishment for robbery and murder are the same, they always murder. The dead, they say, tell no tales.
A comparison of murder rates and executions between 1930 and 1964 shows that this logic was well understood by all. The murder rate peaked at 9.7 per 10,000 in 1933 and then declined steadily to 4.9 per 10,000 in 1963. Executions followed them down at almost exactly the same pace, from 170 across the nation in 1934 to only 48 in 1962.
Then death penalty opponents began to hold sway. The Warren Court began postponing executions on all kinds of trivial procedural grounds. There were only two in 1965 and none after 1967, even before the Supreme Court overturned all death penalties in 1971.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?