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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dept. of Unintended Consequences

posted by on April 8 at 8:35 AM

The death penalty for child rape? Hm. I’m generally against the death penalty, but I’d pull the switch myself on—or stick the needle into—anyone that harmed raped my kid. The Supreme Court is about to hear a case out of Louisiana, which permits the death penalty for child rape. As with most death penalty cases, the emotional appeal of the death penalty is outweighed by the social costs—in this instance, the likelihood that fewer people would report child rape cases if they knew the penalty was death. From USA Today:

Several states, including Missouri, have signaled that if the court permits the death penalty for child rape in Louisiana, they may try to enact such laws. Five states already plainly allow capital punishment for raping young children. Social workers warn that if the court sanctions the penalty for child rape, it could further discourage reporting of the crime because in the majority of child sexual assaults, the attacker is a relative or friend of the victim.

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If anyone ever harmed or raped my kid, they'd better kill 'em. Cuz I totally don't want kids.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 8, 2008 8:49 AM

OUTSTANDING!! I am in favor of anything that reduces the population of the planet! All crimes should warrant DEATH!! DEATH!!! Even if the kid is lying, the accused MUST be killed!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | April 8, 2008 8:57 AM

economics at work!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 8:59 AM

How absurd! Like that 17 year old in Atlanta that got sent to prison for getting a consensual blow job from a 15 year old should go to death row?

Posted by Mikeblanco | April 8, 2008 9:07 AM

Killing someone for a nonlethal crime is not justice; it's revenge.

Posted by tsm | April 8, 2008 9:10 AM

If America had REAL sex education, did away with the Puritancial hatred of sex and all things dealing with the nude human form, encouraged love of physical health and beauty (Not lust of beauty) we would have a healthier sexual populace. We most likely would not have family members raping their young as they do now. And we all know that individuals who are sent to jail for sexually abusing children are generally killed by the inmates. The death sentence is not handed down by society outside the jail, but by society within the jail.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | April 8, 2008 9:17 AM

@6 - I'm sure you've heard it before, but rape is about power, not sex. I don't think sex-positive education (which I agree is needed) would have any kind of positive impact on the type of person that thinks it's ok to victimize someone.

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 9:24 AM

Surely the fact that fewer pedophiles will be caught is offset by the visceral righteous thrill the taxpayers can all enjoy knowing that they are helping to violently exterminate a small number of very bad people. If television has taught us anything, it's that violent reprisals are, if not the most effective, certainly the most entertaining form of justice there is.

And I'm sure nobody will pressure their kid to keep quiet about what the parish priest did to them knowing that it would mean the death penalty.

Posted by flamingbanjo | April 8, 2008 9:25 AM

What tsm said.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 8, 2008 9:25 AM

Apparently, Washington state has signed off on a brief by the Texas solicitor general in favor of this. Who's responsible for that?

It's easy to pass laws suggesting that child molesters be killed, or drawn and quartered, or dismembered alive by a pack of angry pit bulls, because no one wants to go on record as the guy who supported child molesters, no matter how cartoonishly sadistic or barbaric the suggested measure is.

Posted by tsm | April 8, 2008 9:27 AM

Why would there be any fewer false convictions for child rape than murder?

This is no different than neocons pretending torturing a terrorist is the same as torturing as suspected or accused terrorist.

Posted by elenchos | April 8, 2008 9:30 AM

Killing someone for any crime is not justice; it's revenge.

Posted by quilsone | April 8, 2008 9:38 AM

@7 -

It is easy to say that rape is about power, but things get a little muddy, particularly when you're dealing with adult / child rape. Since any sexual contact with a minor is, by definition, rape, it stands to reason that there are a lot of people who "just" want to have sex with kids, and would rather not "rape" them. I'm not saying that's not wrong or revolting, but I suspect the motivations for molesting a child are often different than the motivations for raping an adult. I have to think that better sex education could only serve to improve the situation.

Additionally, even if real sex-ed didn't serve to discourage predators, young people who are well-informed about what sex is would be more likely to understand what was being, or attempting to be, done to them, allowing them either a greater capacity to resist the act or the knowledge to report their molester. A lot of the reason kids stay quiet is that, while they are uneasy with what has happened, the are confused and unsure about it.

Posted by Gander | April 8, 2008 9:43 AM
I'm generally against the death penalty, but I'd pull the switch myself on—or stick the needle into—anyone that harmed raped my kid.

What a thoughtful and reasonable opinion you have there, Dan.

Posted by w7ngman | April 8, 2008 9:43 AM

I agree that if my child were raped I would willingly kill the offender with my bare hands. And that is exactly why we have a democratic society with a judicial system and bill of rights: so that [ideally]justice is meted out according to objective standards with safeguards in place, and not by human emotions - even human emotions that are completely warranted and understandable.

Posted by Mary F. | April 8, 2008 9:44 AM

@5 and 12 - Easy to say until it's your child. Do you have any? If someone ever raped my daughter I would be more than happy to save the taxpayers by killing the piece of shit myself. With my bare hands. I'm on the fence as far as the death penalty goes, because it's easy to say that two wrongs don't make a right or whatever cliche you want to use. However - and I'll bet this is true for most people (we're all savages at heart) - if I was the victim, or related to the victim - I think I would be able to jump off of that fence in a heartbeat. What is justice, anyway? Is there ever, truly justice for a child that's been raped? It can't be undone, and the child's probably fucked-up for life. Might as well get my "revenge" if justice will never be served.

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 9:48 AM

1. think: "I'd like to kill someone who raped my kid" -- what if your kid is a 16 year old who openly flirts with a 22 year they make out then it leads to sex? that's rape.

Wanna kill that 22 year old?

What if the definition of rape is sex without consent and the consent issue just turns on he said / he said or she said / she said or he said / she said whatever.

You're giving someone power to lie about whether there was consent thus turn a roll in the hay into a death warrant (talkin' about post pub. teens under agae of minority here not tiny kids).

2. the hwhoel death penalty thing is just a way to have full employment for lawyers and shrinks and prison guards and whatnot it just does not work. you need so many protections they appeal it for 12-20 years and as a society we lose. it's a bloated govt. program. and there are unintended consequences like a jury may not want to convict...

Posted by unPC | April 8, 2008 9:52 AM

won't this encourage child rapists to kill their victims? why leave a potential witness if you're already facing the death penalty?

Posted by jon c | April 8, 2008 9:52 AM

@16, read @15. The justice system is not here to give you the most satisfying revenge; it's here to mete out fair punishment and deter. And while a child may indeed have issues for life due to rape, he/she is still alive. (I've heard people justify the death penalty here by saying that child rape victims "might as well be dead", which is just horseshit - sure, just go tell all victims of abuse their life became worthless that day.)

This shows, unfortunately, why laws get passed that are not only excessive and barbaric, but often actually less effective too.

Posted by tsm | April 8, 2008 9:54 AM

also consider that this might lead to higher incidence of children being murdered after rape; if you're going to get the death penalty for raping a child, might as well kill that child to decrease the chances of getting caught.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 10:04 AM

hahah 18 beat me to it.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 10:06 AM

"Fair punishment." Since when has our justice system been able to manage that? I personlly know a guy who has had more DUI's than I can count and his "fair punishment" was getting his license taken away. Well, great! Doesn't mean he won't drive anyway. It's only when he actually KILLS someone while driving drunk that he will goe to jail. For a year or two. Here's another one: His "fair punishment" allowed him back out into society to repeat his offense. How many rapists (and I'm talking about actual RAPE - the logical term for it; not two teenagers fucking around) are allowed parole, only to go out and rape someone again? Like this guy? Poor Dru. But luckily for her murderer, there's such a thing as "fair punishment.

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 10:09 AM


If you actually knew who was guilty of rape and murder, you'd be God, and you would not need to be having this discussion.

But in fact, you only know who is accused of rape or murder or DUI. So when you're strangling the accused rapist, just remember you're doing it because somebody told you they did it, not because you know they did it.

Posted by elenchos | April 8, 2008 10:20 AM

Tell that to your daughter when she comes home and tells you that she was raped.

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 10:33 AM

DanFan, you are one stupid motherfucker.

Posted by elenchos | April 8, 2008 10:37 AM

As the father of a 12 y-o girl who was raped:

The perp was my uncle - my daughter's grand uncle.

When confronted he confessed. He's in prison right now. For a long long time.

My daughter held this inside for almost 5 years before coming forward. Because, as she said, she was afraid of blowing up the family. Would the death penalty have helped? No, it would have made it less likely my daughter, who is a hero, would have come forward.

My uncle is a sick m-f who is right where he belongs. It took me a long time to realize, but I take much more satisfaction out of justice being done than I would about revenge being done.

I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I wished death upon my cousins' father. His life is essentially ruined, by his own doing, and he has to live with that. We're done with him. That's enough.

Posted by Simba | April 8, 2008 10:37 AM

It's one thing for you to kill someone because they raped your kid. If you killed the assailant, I would say that's within your rights as a human being.

But the state is not a human being. To grant life-or-death powers to the state is wrong. The state and society at large need to be above the concept of revenge. Our laws should reflect the concept of justice, not revenge.

The death penalty sux.

Posted by Matthew | April 8, 2008 10:37 AM

DanFan, you're completely missing the point; your daughter may not come home and tell you she was raped if it was your brother that did it, because they would be up for the death penalty and your daughter doesnt want your brother to die.

or perhaps your daughter comes home in a body bag because the rapist didnt want to get caught.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 8, 2008 10:40 AM

@ 17, that's pretty close to the same scenario that landed my best friend in federal prison for 100 months. I'll not defend his actions as unpunishable, but he was certainly made up as an example in the federal court and every piece of evidence that accurately painted the "victim" as someone who had a history of this behavior was disallowed.

If capital punishment for child rape were to become the law of the land, we'd better be ready to address the silly notion that we have in this country that all people under 18 are children and therefore have no concept of right and wrong.

There are plenty of folks who should be ejected from our society for their actions, but there are plenty of ways to do that without resorting to revenge tactics and the inevitable innocent blood that would be mixed in with the blood that "should" be spilled.

Hey, that reminds me. "There Will be Blood" is out on DVD today!

Posted by reval5 | April 8, 2008 10:44 AM

My brother was murdered - not by a rapist, but in a mugging gone wrong. My other brother is still furious about this crime after 29 years and wished the perpetrator had gotten the death penalty [which in a way he did as he OD'd before the trial - I'd like to think it was because of his feelings of guilt, but of course I'll never know.]

I tell you all this because I am a big opponent of the Death Penalty in all cases. I believe that life in prison without a chance of parole is a much crueler punshiment. Killing the man who killed my brother doen't bring my brother back, even a little - and hating him only hurts me, not him. Besides the fact that it is applied inaccurately [DNA tests have freed 1-in-8 prisoners on Death Row], more expensive than life in prison [because of all those appeals] and tends to make the perpetrator of the crime into a sort of martyr. Let 'em rot in jail instead, forgotten by the world.

It seems a knee-jerk response of those who support the Death Penalty to say "Wait until it happens to someone you love." I've been there and done that - and still oppose the Death Penalty. I really, really wish my brother was still alive - he was a great guy and I adored him as only an older brother can be adored. I wish that he was never mugged. But I never wished the killer dead and was saddened when he did OD.

And I was molested by a relative as a child - it went right on into my teens. When I told my parents I was called a liar, which did a lot more damage than the rape ever did. Yeah, it screwed up my life but I got therapy and no longer let it drag me down. I understand that it wasn't my fault, that I didn't deserve what happened to me. I regard the man who molested me as evil and selfish - but I don't want him dead. All I want is to make sure he never, ever does it again. No one else should suffer as I have. But he is a close relative and I do have some affection for him still.

Please understand that I recognize the desire to hurt someone who has hurt you - but not everyone who has been victimized wants to see the perpetrator suffer or die because of their crime.

Posted by Schweighsr | April 8, 2008 11:45 AM

Like I said, I'm on the fence when it comes to the death penalty. My point was that it's easy to be a bystander and have all of these noble points of view, but when it becomes personal your whole point of view changes. I agree that "justice" is not served by the death penalty, and that using it for rapists could be an extremely slippery slope. But I hold true to the statement that if my daughter were ever raped, and I had the opportunity to get my hands on her attacker, I would personally rip him apart. Simply because I've seen "justice" in action, and it's a joke. Mama Bear? Most definitely. I'm not ashamed of that at all. I was under the impression that the whole point of this blog is so that people could express their opinions. Thank you for yours, elenchos. I'll certainly keep that in mind.

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 11:59 AM

draconian measures are rarely the right response to anything. read "dead man walking" to get a thorough understanding from an intelligent, as well as compassionate perspective as to why we should leave the death penalty in the dust. it should be left in our barbarous past. and i undecided before i read the book, btw.

Posted by ellarosa | April 8, 2008 12:06 PM

@4 and others... child rape is usually different from statutory rape.

Posted by infrequent | April 8, 2008 12:13 PM

@33 - Very true. Here's something else for everyone to think about: In a lot of cases the child doesn't tell anyone because the attacker says something along the lines of, "If you tell anyone, I'll kill (fill in the blank)" or "This is your fault and if you tell, you're going to get in trouble." I honestly don't think that the possiblity of the death penalty is going to dissuade the children that WOULD tell from telling. Also, generally speaking, I don't think that someone who was not inclined to kill the child in the first place is going to change their inclination because of the possiblity of the death penalty. I'm not saying it would never happen, but I don't think these laws going into effect would cause a huge increase in the number of rape-plus-murder cases.

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 12:37 PM

DanFan, don't be utterly obtuse and expect your opinions to be treated with respect.

If you're going to pretend you have impossible powers, why pretend you know for certain you have the guilty party, just so you can take revenge? Instead, pretend that you have the magic power to make the crime never have happened. You're God, after all, in your own imagination.

On the other hand, if we're talking about reality, and not wishful thinking, then in reality you will never know for certain if the person you're looking at is actually guilty.

You're sitting here declaring that the relatives of crime victims can get very, very emotional, and even get completely carried away with a need for revenge. As if you're the only one who knows that. Amazing discovery.

I wonder if the relatives of somebody executed for a crime they didn't commit have a similar right to get carried away. Are they allowed revenge too?

Posted by elenchos | April 8, 2008 1:06 PM

You're the only one slinging insults my dear elenchos. Is this hitting home a little bit honey bunches? Got something you want to get off of your chest sweety pie? Talk to us, honey; we'll love you anyway. :-)~

Posted by DanFan | April 8, 2008 1:45 PM

It does hit home when anybody goes around saying how great it is to kill. It's disgusting, as a matter of fact.

Posted by elenchos | April 8, 2008 2:01 PM

I don't believe there was one person on here that said anything about how great it is to kill. You must not be a parent. Most parents' first instinct when their child is harmed is to kill first, ask questions later. I'm not being as literal as you think I am. Calm down, would ya?

Posted by DanFan | April 9, 2008 6:33 AM

i absolutely hate the, "you must not be a parent" argument. almost as much as, "shoot first and ask questions later." can you image if our legal system was based on those sentiments?

Posted by infrequent | April 9, 2008 9:30 AM

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