Friday, February 22, 2008

IPF Signs Onto Amicus Curiae Brief in Important U.S. Supreme Court Case

Last night, an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief was filed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in the case of Kennedy v. Louisiana (Docket No. 07-343). This questions presented in this case are as follows:

1. Whether the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause permits a State to punish the crime of rape of a child with the death penalty.

2. If so, whether Louisiana’s capital rape statute violates the Eighth Amendment insofar as it fails genuinely to narrow the class of such offenders eligible for the death penalty.

The brief provides myriad data that reporting of sexual abuse by and testimony of alleged child rape victims is significantly more unreliable and susceptible to suggestion, coaching, fabrication, etc. than similar testimony given by adult rape victims. Thus, if the death penalty is not a sentence that is proportional or appropriate for the crime of adult rape (see Coker v. Georgia), then it is surely not appropriate under the 8th amendment for the crime of child rape where the reliability of a child victim's allegation is far more suspect.

IPF signed onto the brief for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that Florida still has a law on the books that makes it a capital crime to commit a sexual battery on a child under the age of 12.

Now, let's get one thing straight. Child rape is one of, if not the most, physically and psychologically damaging crimes against a victim. Yet, we at the Innocence Project of Florida have a responsibility, through policy statements and reforms, to inject reliability into the criminal justice system and prevent increasing levels of unreliability wherever possible. So despite the heinousness of these crimes, the possibility of executing an innocent person exponentially increases in child rape cases and we will not stand for any state providing the ultimate penalty for crimes where the reliability of a guilty verdict can be so suspect.

You can read this brief and others here. The oral arguments will be held at the Supreme Court of the United States on April 16, 2008.

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