OKLAHOMA CITY – Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, released the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Kennedy v. Louisiana. A 5-4 decision of the court overturned a Louisiana law that allowed the death penalty to be imposed on a man convicted of raping his eight-year-old stepdaughter.
Gumm was the chief legislative advocate of Oklahoma’s law – found in 2006’s SB 1800 – that provides the death penalty for child molesters on a second or subsequent offense.
“I am deeply disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court – on a razor-thin 5-4 vote – declared the Louisiana statute unconstitutional. Obviously, I believe the Court is wrong in Justice Kennedy’s opinion, which in essence, says the death penalty is not a proportionate penalty for child rape.
“The Justice is dead wrong. All one has to do is read the facts of this case and the harm done to the victim – which Justice Kennedy dutifully relates in his opinion – to see how heinous this crime was.
“As I said as we fought for passage of Oklahoma’s law, we allow the death penalty for someone who has murdered a person; we should allow it for someone who has killed a child’s soul.
“Further, I am troubled by the policy-related arguments in Justice Kennedy’s decision. He debated the policy issues that are independent of constitutional questions throughout his opinion. The Justice suggested that there was no national consensus to impose the death penalty on child rapists, and used that as a justification for his ill-advised decision.
“Yet he noted that several states – including Oklahoma – have enacted similar laws, which in my judgment shows a growing national consensus. Then, the Justice interjects his willingness to use the Court’s power to stop that growing consensus with this decision.
“Also, the Justice related a sobering statistic his decision inexplicably ignores. The rate of child rape is about twice that of murder since 2005. If there is a more eloquent argument for imposing the ultimate penalty on child rapists, I do not know what that is.
“This is a poor decision that will make America’s children less safe. Fortunately, we included the option of life without parole in the Oklahoma statute, which is – for now – allowed by the Court.
“Obviously, we will look at Oklahoma’s statute and do what we must to keep children as safe as possible. But our job was made harder today by a misguided majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.”