Under A New Law, Child Assailants Can Be Executed

(NewsSpace.com) – Those who assault children are considered to be among the worst criminals out there. They are often made targets behind bars as well. Now, one state leader is trying to make sure those who carry out the crimes can receive the worst possible punishment: the death penalty.

On Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) signed a law into effect that would make adults who are convicted of aggravated child rape eligible for capital punishment. Previously, they could only be sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole. The law, which was sponsored by state Senator Jack Johnson (R), is set to go into effect on July 1.

While he didn’t give a statement, Lee did tell reporters that he wasn’t hoping for it to be tried in court, but noted that he agrees with the bill, because those who commit crimes against minors are “some of the most heinous that there are.”

It’s likely that the law will be challenged. A 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Coker v. Georgia noted that the death penalty for rape convictions is a violation of the Eighth Amendment. That was affirmed again in the 2008 case, Kennedy v. Louisiana, when the justices ruled it unconstitutional to sentence someone convicted of child sexual battery to death.

There is speculation that, much like in Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS’ 6-3 conservative majority could reverse the ruling. Referencing the 2008 case, Johnson noted that the five justices who upheld the ruling in 2008 are no longer on the court, but three who dissented are. In an op-ed, he said he “feels very certain that the Supreme Court believes there is a strong, compelling state interest to protect children.” That, he said, will hopefully lead to it supporting the state’s efforts.

Not everyone is for the law, however. Some believe that it will make it harder for the state to prosecute child rape cases or prevent the victims from coming forward at all.

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