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Tennessee Follows Florida, Will Now Allow Execution Of Child Rapists

  On Monday, Tennessee became the second state to officially allow child rapists to be executed. Tennessee GOP Gov. Bill Lee  signed a bill ...

 On Monday, Tennessee became the second state to officially allow child rapists to be executed.

Tennessee GOP Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill into law in mid-May that went into effect Monday. It authorized the state to implement one of three penalties for the aggravated rape of a child: death, imprisonment for life without possibility of parole, or imprisonment for life. In May 2023, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill allowing child rapists to be executed.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana in which it declared it unconstitutional to execute a convicted offender in child sexual battery cases. But supporters of the death penalty for child rapists hope the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will reverse the 2008 decision.

“Maybe the atmosphere is different on the Supreme Court,” Tennessee GOP state Sen. Janice Bowling said. “We’re simply challenging a ruling.”

In the Kennedy decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 majority, stated:

We have explained that capital punishment must “be limited to those offenders who commit ‘a narrow category of the most serious crimes’ and whose extreme culpability makes them ‘the most deserving of execution.’”

Yet, here is how Anthony Kennedy described the act that had taken place which led to the conviction of Patrick Kennedy for raping his eight-year-old stepdaughter:

When police arrived at petitioner’s (home between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m., they found L. H. on her bed, wearing a T-shirt and wrapped in a bloody blanket. She was bleeding profusely from the vaginal area. Petitioner told police he had carried her from the yard to the bathtub and then to the bed. Consistent with this explanation, police found a thin line of blood drops in the garage on the way to the house and then up the stairs. Once in the bedroom, petitioner had used a basin of water and a cloth to wipe blood from the victim. This later prevented medical personnel from collecting a reliable DNA sample.

L. H. was transported to the Children’s Hospital. An expert in pediatric forensic medicine testified that L. H.’s injuries were the most severe he had seen from a sexual assault in his four years of practice. A laceration to the left wall of the vagina had separated her cervix from the back of her vagina, causing her rectum to protrude into the vaginal structure. Her entire perineum was torn from the posterior fourchette to the anus. The injuries required emergency surgery.

Police also found that petitioner made two telephone calls on the morning of the rape. Sometime before 6:15 a.m., petitioner called his employer and left a message that he was unavailable to work that day. Petitioner called back between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. to ask a colleague how to get blood out of a white carpet because his daughter had “‘just become a young lady.’”

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