More news on the state-sanctioned killin’ front

The U.S. Supreme Court conducted oral argument today in Kennedy v. Louisiana, a case involving whether a state can, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, execute someone convicted of  a non-homicide crime, raping a child under the age of thirteen in this case. SCD’s prior coverage is available here and here.

The Court’s official transcript of the argument (pdf, 73 pages) is here. Justice Scalia, a vocal critic of the Court’s “evolving standards of decency” approach to Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, is positively consumed with girlish glee over the prospect that a current trend might militate in favor of upholding a death penalty law. Six states currently authorize capital punishment for child rape, with several other states giving serious consideration such measures. To the extent a “trend” exists, Scalia notes, it favors the state in this case.

About the best we can hope for in this case is a narrow, procedures-based ruling that doesn’t address the big issue. If the Court does reach that issue, we’re likely looking at a big step backward.

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