Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kennedy v. Louisiana case brief

Kennedy v. Louisiana case brief summary
554 U.S. 407 (2008)

Petitioner, a Louisiana prisoner who was sentenced to death, sought certiorari review of a judgment from the Supreme Court of Louisiana, which upheld his capital sentence following his conviction under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:42 (1997 and Supp. 1998) for the aggravated rape of an eight-year-old child.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana rejected petitioner's argument that the death penalty for the rape of a child under 12 years was disproportionate, and it upheld the constitutionality of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:42 under the Eighth Amendment.


  • The Court, however, held that U.S. Constitutional Amendment VIII barred respondent, the State of Louisiana, from imposing the death penalty on petitioner. 
  • Based both on consensus and its own independent judgment, the Court held that a death sentence for one who raped but did not kill a child, and who did not intend to assist another in killing the child, was unconstitutional under U.S. Constitutional amendments VIII and XIV. 
  • After reviewing the history of the death penalty for the crime of child rape, current state statutes and new enactments, and the number of executions since 1964, the Court concluded that there was a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape. 
  • The Court also concluded in its independent judgment that the death penalty was not a proportional punishment for the crime of child rape. 
  • The Court found that its decision was consistent with the justifications offered for the death penalty: retribution and deterrence.

The Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with the Court's opinion. 5-4 Decision; 1 Dissent.

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