Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Expand the death penalty

Capital punishment is a touchy subject for many people. Although
the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens support capital
punishment, there are certainly legitimate concerns about ensuring
that only the guilty are put to death.

When guilt can be established, whether by DNA or more than one
eyewitness, the use of capital punishment should be expanded. The
death penalty should be a possible punishment not only for
murderers, but also for criminals who are convicted of raping

A Louisiana law permits a jury to sentence a person to death who
is convicted of raping a child under the age of 12. The law, first
enacted in 1995, has been found to be constitutional by the
Louisiana State Supreme Court, and in 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court
declined to hear an appeal on the constitutionality of this law.
The U.S. Supreme Court could still take up the appeal of Patrick O.
Kennedy, who was convicted of raping an eight-year-old


The doctors who treated this young girl said she was the most
severely injured child-rape victim they had ever seen; she required
surgery to repair the damage. At the penalty stage Kennedy’s
goddaughter, now in her 20s, testified that when she was eight or
nine, on three separate occasions, Kennedy raped her as well.

The death penalty is the ultimate penalty a government can give
to a criminal. This penalty should only be handed out in murder
cases and for a small group of serious crimes, including raping
children, treason and a few other crimes already covered by federal

Is killing an adult child-rapist “cruel and unusual punishment?”

Rape is a cruel and unusual act of violence, but death, as a
penalty, is not a cruel and unusual punishment. Any child who is
raped by an adult has had his or her life ripped away from them. Is
it equivalent to death? Not physically, but the lifetime of agony
for that child is almost certainly insurmountable.

Extensive counseling and a large cast of supporters around that
child will not likely help him or her heal mentally. Rape is the
worst way to violate another human being, short of killing

A rapist is an adult who must be held responsible for his or her
actions. No one forced that person to commit such a heinous act. A
child who is raped is defenseless against such a crime.

Some argue that sexual assaults in general, and rape
specifically, are often covered up by a family if it was another
family member who committed the crime. It has been argued that if
death can be the possible penalty, such a problem will only

This is an intellectually dishonest argument. To rationalize
that a harsher penalty may increase cover-ups is not addressing the
validity of the punishment. If the penalty can be as severe as
death, families may consider the issue more seriously and be less
inclined to participate in a cover-up.

This will be particularly true if you create a law where those
who conceal the crime can be charged as accomplices and face stiff
jail sentences.

The death penalty is not simply about “an eye for an eye.” The
death penalty should be used as a way to deter crime, as well as a
way to strike justice against those truly evil people who commit
heinous acts.

The judicial system must afford anyone charged with a capital
offense the necessary tools to put on a strong defense. The death
penalty should continue to be used as punishment in these cases,
when all evidence has been examined and tested and a person is
still found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Raping a child under
the age of 12, as Patrick O. Kennedy did in Louisiana, meets that
burden of evil, just as murder does in the majority of the states
in this country.

Matt Modell ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in journalism and political science.

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