Death Penalty For Sex Offenders Essay

Length: 6 pages Sources: 6 Subject: Criminal Justice Type: Essay Paper: #11455550 Related Topics: Sex Offenders, Black Death, Homicide, Mentally Retarded
Excerpt from Essay :

Execution for Committing a Non-Homicide Sex Crime

The last execution of an individual found guilty for committing a non-homicide sex crime occurred 50 years ago. The use of the death penalty against such offenders was halted partly because of claims that such execution was not only cruel but also in violation of the Constitution. In Coker v. Georgia (1977), the Court ruled that executions for rape were not only cruel but also contributed to unusual punishment that infringed the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. In its ruling on the case, the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited the death penalty for rape in an offense where the victim had the legal status of an adult since she was 16 years old and married. In the past few years, there have been attempts and efforts that support the reinstatement of capital punishment for committing a non-homicide sex crime. These efforts have primarily been centered on the use of the death penalty for sexual violence where the victim was not killed.

Abolition of Execution for Committing a Non-homicide Sex Crime

The history of the use of the death penalty as a punishment for offenders who commit a non-homicide sex crime can be traced back to more than 50 years ago. The last person to be executed for committing a non-homicide sex crime was Patrick Kennedy more than 50 years ago. Generally, the use of the death penalty as a means of punishing offenders of serious crimes is an issue that has attracted huge controversy in the recent past. In the past 30 years, the United States Supreme Court has definitely tilted toward conservatism though capital punishment cases have largely been an irregularity (Stanglin, 2008). During this period, the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited the execution of mentally retarded individuals and juveniles on the premise that such executions infringe the 8th Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment.

In relation to prohibiting execution for committing a non-homicide sex crime, the Court has made some landmark rulings that have in turn become monumental. For instance, in Kennedy v. Louisiana case, the Court ruled that states cannot execute an offender found guilty of raping a child. The ruling was based on the fact that such executions are not only cruel and unusual punishment but also violate the Eighth Amendment. The ruling was partly influenced by the decision in Coker v. Georgia case in 1977 where the Court prohibited such executions for similar reasons. The decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana not only prevented the impending execution of an individual guilty of an offense that did not culminate in the victim's death but also prevented legislatures for establishing regulations that support the death penalty for other non-homicide crimes. Therefore, the Supreme Court's ruling implies that the death penalty is permitted to be enforced only for murder offenses.

History of the Movement

As previously mentioned, there have been numerous efforts to revive the death penalty for sexual violence where the victim was not killed. These initiatives have been fueled by various considerations including the dissenting opinion of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. In the review of Kennedy v. Louisiana case. He argued that state legislatures have continuously functioned under ominous shadow since many judges and attorneys have interpreted that the decision in Coker v. Georgia (1977) as prohibiting the death penalty for any rape offense. Therefore, state legislatures have not been given the freedom to express their own understanding of the standards of decency in today's society (Greenhouse, 2008).

The efforts towards reviving the death penalty for sexual violence where the victim was not killed have also been fueled by the enactment of such statutes by six states, which may represent the commencement of a new evolutionary line. Justice Alito stated that these measures are reflections of changes in the modern society's thinking since the ruling in Coker v. Georgia case. The enactment of the statutes is also a sign that the society is increasingly become aware and concerned regarding sexual offenses against children. Texas and Georgia are examples of states that have passed statutes in recent years that support the use of capital punishment for individuals found guilty of sexual...


In 2005, there were more than 5,000 reported rapes of children below 12 years, which is seemingly overwhelming the United States criminal justice system. Generally, the recent years have been characterized by increased awareness of the vulnerability of children to rape and sexual assault incidents. Moreover, the sexual violence incidents have colossal consequences on children with some of these consequences lasting for a lifetime (Masci, 2008). Therefore, proponents of this measure argue that reviving capital punishment for such crimes would help in lessening sexual violence cases against children and ensure that perpetrators of such offenses are suitably punished.

Cases Involved

While there have been numerous efforts to revive the death penalty for committing a non-homicide sex crime, there have been very few cases involved in these attempts. One of the cases involved in these measures is the recent review of the Kennedy v. Louisiana where the dissenting judge supported the measures. As previously mentioned, the dissenting judge argued that prohibiting the execution of such criminals is an erroneous interpretation of the ruling in Coker v. Georgia case and an inadequate reflection of the modern society's thinking regarding the increased incidents of rape and sexual assault of children. The other case involved in these efforts is Giles v. California in which the Supreme Court overturned the decision by the California Supreme Court that sentenced Mr. Giles to murder. However, the Supreme Court gave the state freedom to try and prove the necessary intent (Greenhouse, 2008).

Historical Application and Legal History of Capital Punishment on Sex Crimes

The review of the Kennedy v. Louisiana case in 2008 was the first time the U.S. Supreme Court examined the legal standards for determining the kinds of offenses that can be punished by capital punishment. From a historical perspective, the high court has restricted the use of capital punishment for the nearly four decades. This limitation has implied that the death sentence cannot be enforced against kidnappers who do not commit murder or accomplices of murder criminals (Totenberg, 2008).

The historical application of capital punishment on sex crimes can be traced back to the period between 1930 and 1972 when the punishment was imposed for rape cases. During this period, 10 men who were found guilty of such crimes were executed. Since nine of the ten executed criminals were black, it seems that no white man has ever been subjected to the death penalty in the United States for non-homicide rape of a black child or adult.

The legal history of capital punishment on sex crimes took a monumental shift in 1977 in Coker v. Georgia case where the court ruled that it was unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment in a 7-to-2 vote. The case involved a 16-year-old married woman who was raped by a criminal who had escaped from prison where he was imprisoned for a previous rape incident. In addition to considering the victim as an adult, the court ruled that capital punishment is excessive for the criminal who did not kill the victim.

The ruling in this case has acted as the basis for determination of the legal application of the death penalty, especially in cases where the offender does not kill the victim. The decision established a legal precedence that acts as the basis for determining the constitutionality of state legislation regarding the use of capital punishment for sex crimes. The use of this precedence in determining the legality of such statutes and ruling is the recent review of Kennedy v. Louisiana and Giles v. California cases. In both cases, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the states murder conviction of the victims on the premise that such sentences are cruel and unusual as well as unconstitutional. However, people who believe that the Constitution has retained its meaning throughout the years have detested the Court's reasoning in both cases. This is primarily because the reasoning has largely been based on the developing standards of decency that reflect development of a maturing society. As a result, what might not have been cruel when the Eighth Amendment was endorsed in 1971 might be in the modern society. The ruling of the Supreme Court in both cases seemingly propagates the notion that it is disgusting for a progressive state society to kill an offender for an offense that does not result in death.

Policy Consideration for Applying Capital Punishment to Sex Crimes

The application of capital punishment to sex crime cases generates numerous constitutional problems that not only affect the desirability of such statutes but also generates several policy considerations. The main policy consideration in the application of this form of punishment to sex crime cases is…

Sources Used in Documents:


Greenhouse, L. (2008, June 26). Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty for Child Rape. The New

York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2015, from

Harris, T. (2006, March 30). Making Sex Crimes Against Kids a Capital Offense. ABC News.

Retrieved February 7, 2015, from
Retrieved February 7, 2015, from
Stanglin, J. (2008, July 3). COMMENTARY: Supreme Court Averts Danger by Disallowing the Death Penalty for Child Rape. Retrieved February 7, 2015, from
7, 2015, from

Cite this Document:

"Death Penalty For Sex Offenders" (2015, February 07) Retrieved January 16, 2022, from

"Death Penalty For Sex Offenders" 07 February 2015. Web.16 January. 2022. <>

"Death Penalty For Sex Offenders", 07 February 2015, Accessed.16 January. 2022,

Related Documents
Capital Punishment and Sexual Crimes
Words: 1690 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 65461447

9). To help such victims, the Florida Department of Health had set up several billboards in Tampa and the billboards say, "Sex without consent is rape." Such billboards are hoped to helped the victims to come forward and identify the offender so that more women can be saved from similar abuse. This increase in the number of crimes as well as the lasting effect it has on the victim qualifies it

Death Penalty for Juvenile Offenders
Words: 1731 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 36985384

Death Penalty for Juvenile Offenders Supreme Court by a majority decision on March 1, 2005 in Roper v. Simmons held that death penalty for juveniles was "cruel and unusual" and as such the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution forbid the execution of offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed. The action reversed the death sentences of 72 convicted murderers in the U.S.

Sex Offender Registration Requirements the
Words: 1074 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 93319066

" Civil commitment statutes entail that a convicted sexual offender who has finished his or her sentence should be treated within a secure medical setting. This is not connected to a time frame, and such persons could be committed indefinitely, until it is determined that they are no longer a danger to society. When released from such a facility, the person is still required to register as a sexual offender. Other

Death Penalty
Words: 2882 Length: 8 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 74137028

As such, it is unlikely to change in light of knowledge or information about the death penalty and its administration" (Vollum & Buffington-Vollum, p. 30). Furthermore, "those who scored higher on value-expressive attitudes were less accepting of information critical of the death penalty and, in turn, less likely to change their views in light of the information presented." Thus, the widespread support of the death penalty in the face

Death Penalty & Race in
Words: 5755 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 25366103

" This article puts forward the notion that when analyzing the "...relationships between minority groups and mainstream populations," the issue of whether the use of "formal control is applied fairly and consistently between these different groups" is a pivotal place to begin (Ruddell, et al., 2004). It is pivotal because "injustice" not only can have "a corrosive effect" on the perception of the fairness (or unfairness) of the criminal justice system;

Capital Punishment Like Abortion, the Institution of
Words: 3156 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 93154957

Capital Punishment Like abortion, the institution of capital punishment is a very divisive topic. The line dividing the supporters and opponents of capital punishment is variably drawn across political philosophies, race, sex and religion. The Governor of Illinois, not long ago, declared a moratorium on death penalty cases in his state. This essay is dedicated to a presentation of facts about capital punishment, without delving into personal opinions in support or