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Death For Rape, An Echo Of The Past

Publication Date: 
April 01, 2008
ABA Journal
David G. Savage

Professor Jeffrey Fisher is quoted in the ABA Journal's article about the death penalty for rape regarding a case currently in front of the Supreme Court:

Stanford University law professor Jeffrey Fisher, who represents Kennedy, argues that the death penalty in this instance qualifies as both unusual and cruel.

“Forty-five states bar such punishment outright, and Louisiana is the only state that allows it when, as here, the defendant has no prior convictions for child sexual assault or rape,” he says in his brief to the court.

Moreover, the death penalty is almost unheard of in Louisiana for those who rape or murder children, he adds. Since 1995, 180 people have been prosecuted for child rape in Louisiana, Fisher says, and none received a death sentence other than Kennedy and Richard Davis, who was sentenced to death last fall. Fisher says state prosecutors nearly always offer de­fendants in such cases a chance to plead guilty in exchange for a life term. Kennedy insisted he was innocent and took his case to a jury.

“In at least 40 cases since the enactment of Louisi­ana’s capital rape law, the state has convicted people of killing children; none of these offenders received a death sentence either,” Fisher adds.


By 1954, rape was punished by death in 18 states—16 of them in the South, Banner reported. Louisiana executed 14 rapists between 1930 and 1967, all of them black. “This court should pause before condoning a practice so heavily tinged with racism,” Fisher wrote.