What if the Victim is a Child?

Examining the Constutionality of Louisiana's Challenge to Coker v. Georgia

In 1995, the Louisiana state legislature authorized courts to impose the death penalty for aggravated rape where the victim is a child under twelve years of age. According to Louisiana law, the rape of a child is a strict liability offense inherently deserving of the death pen-alty. This note suggests that Louisiana\'s death-penalty statute for child rape is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court\'s analysis in Coker v. Georgia. Although Coker invalidated a statute that author-ized the death penalty for the rape of an adult, the author argues that the same reasoning applies in evaluating the Louisiana statute. More specifically, the author first examines the history of the death penalty, then analyzes in detail the Louisiana statute, consider-ing whether the punishment is excessive and disproportionate to the crime of child rape and whether the punishment is arbitrary and ca-pricious. Upon predicting that the Supreme Court will either declare the Louisiana statute unconstitutional or overrule Coker, the author concludes that Louisiana\'s death-penalty statute for child rape im-poses disproportionate punishment and is arbitrary and capricious in its application.* I would like to thank Professor Kit Kinports for her guidance in choosing this topic and for her con-tinued assistance throughout the writing process.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.