June 25th, 2008
04:47 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama splits with Supreme Court on rape executions

Obama speaks to reporters in Chicago on Wednesday.

Obama speaks to reporters in Chicago on Wednesday.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he disagrees with a Supreme Court decision striking down the death penalty for child rapists, telling reporters Wednesday that states should be able to execute people for "heinous" crimes.

"I think that the rape of small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime," the Illinois senator said. "And if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that does not violate our Constitution."

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that capital punishment can be applied only to murderers, striking down a death sentence for a Louisiana man convicted of sexually assaulting his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

The convict, Patrick Kennedy, would have been the first rapist in 44 years to be executed for a crime in which the victim was not killed.

Obama previously has said he believes the death penalty should be available to states, but that it must be applied fairly.

soundoff (207 Responses)
  1. Clinton Supporter

    A perfect example of Obama "talking white."
    And it works, doesn't it?

    I can see you all pounding your keys already. "How could you SAY such a thing?!? Outrageous comment! Exactly the response BO's comment was meant to elicit.

    June 25, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  2. Jaime47

    ",Listen to the way Obama talks. First of all, Mr. Charisma is a bore when he doesn't have a pep rally behind him. Secondly, he talks as he thinks – that's why he pauses after every 3rd word."

    Dear Mr. Vig,

    We currently have a president who rarely thinks before he speaks. "Bring' em on !!" Where did that get us? Senator Obama can pause all he wants, as long as what he says makes sense (which is most of the time).


    June 25, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  3. Tim

    I'm supporting you for President, but I disagree with you on this one, Obama.

    June 25, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  4. Gene

    EDW... I couldn't have said it better myself. lol

    June 25, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  5. Sammy

    As the saying goes in New Hampshire "Live Free or Die". If the pedophiles can't allow the kids to live free from harm, they will die.

    Good for Obama 08

    June 25, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. Independent Voter

    Raping adult women is somehow not as bad in Barack's beady little eyes? File this one away for future reference, women voters....

    June 25, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  7. RFO

    Absolutely agree that where absolute certainty exists the death penalty is a fitting option for child rapist. The younger the victim the more certain I am the death is the fitting punishment for the crime.

    This Republican is Ready for Change!

    Obama for America '08

    June 25, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  8. chris LA

    POSTING THIS HERE BECAUSE OTHER COMMENT SECTION CLOSED (Hope it gets posted for ONCE) (re the Ralph Nader "Talking White" Comment): Ralph - have you actually BEEN in America since your own 70s halcyon days, or does your entire vision of contemporary black American culture still come from old Richard Roundtree movies? Even if it were appropriate for Obama - who, by the way, is running for President of the ENTIRE COUNTRY - to make his campaign all about "black" issues, don't you think such issues may have evolved a little since the days of "Huggie Bear?" Or were you really suggesting that he should stick to black issues rather than presuming to talk about "white" ones? Whatever your explanation of this truly dumb statement might be, kudos to the poster who observed that you merely seemed jealous of Obama - I guess it must hurt to know what a firebrand you once were and what an antiquated burn-out you have become.

    June 25, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  9. Alice

    I oppose the death penalty, because I think it is impossible to administer fairly. Why should a retarded man who cannot afford a good lawyer be put to death while OJ continues to roam the planet?

    And who is to say what crimes are "worthy" of execution? Sorry, I just don't approve of state-sonsored killing.

    June 25, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  10. Tamara

    Scary. I disagree with Obama. Let see what the left says about this one. We have enough people on death row now that should not be there. Let's work on those first. Rape of a child is horrible. Leave them in prison for life, the worst prisons but if they get the death penalty anyway they will rape and then kill. We will have dead children and not ones that can be helped and returned to society healed.

    Obama is just trying to side with the conservative justices to appeal to Rebublican voters and conservative Independents. We know the left won't say much about this decision either. They want to win.

    June 25, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  11. Alice


    June 25, 2008 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. Abbey

    Having been a child that was a victim of this heinous crime, I agree with Obama all the way!!! As one person put already, the soul of that child is killed. The FBI's Behavorial Analysis Unit has done a lot of research into subjects such as this and will tell you that pedophiles CANNOT be rehabilitated. I have yet to hear of one person that raped a child being sent to prison for life but have heard of many repeat offenders. Keep your children safe and execute the monsters that hurt them. They will continue to do it until we stop them. I'm impressed that Obama stood tall on this issue and didn't back down.

    June 25, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. H-ROD


    June 25, 2008 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  14. DFoster Georgia

    I have 4 girls and I agree with Barack on this 100%. Raping the innocent should warrent the death penalty. A child will have such a hill to climb in life after such a tragic event. The rapest gets out of jail ... to rape again

    June 25, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  15. Willy

    This Mack Daddy will be anything you want as long as you pay him.

    June 25, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  16. JB

    I am actually shocked he feels this way. I do agree, however, there would have to be SPECIFIC rules regarding when and if capital punishment is available.

    Do you recall that poor kid down in GA. The one who filmed himself and a consenting minor. They were both minors and yet, they chucked him in the poky for a very long time. He may be out after the uproar.

    Anyway, a multiple offender who raped a minor (like Obama said) under the age 8 or 10 etc. . .

    June 25, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  17. devams

    I'm a staunch supporter of Obama but I actually disagree with him on this. The death penalty should never be an option, especially in a society that can't apply it fairly and without discrimination. Life imprisonment is a far greater punishment in my opinion, especially for perpetrators of child sexual abuse. They're targeted as the bottom of the barrel by inmates while incarcerated. That, to me, is true karma.

    June 25, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  18. Wow

    Earl – do you realize that the four judges that voted FOR the ruling were all CONSERVATIVES, and that two of them were appointed by George W. Bush? The number of grossly misinformed people, on both sides of the issues debated on this site, really upsets me.

    June 25, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  19. That Struck A Nerve

    Obama has 2 daughters, so this struck a nerve. He was expressins his personal opinion while thinking about his own family. There are many things you have to consider when applying the death penalty. For example, what if it is later determined that a person who was sentenced to death and killed did not actually commit the crime? But on the other hand, most fathers would resort to punishing the perpetrator themselves. Had Obama sided with the courts, people would really say that he was too liberal. Obama could have said that according to his Christian faith, that people should not judge others based on their actions. That's in the Bible.

    June 25, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. cnn #1 fan

    you are all idiots!!! you are missing the whole spin on this....

    HE IS USING this free airtime to APPEAL to women...

    It goes to show, he'll say whatever he has to say to get your vote!!

    June 25, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  21. Rusty, Portland

    I see arrogance permeates the whole Obama campaign team. Remember "pride goeth before the fall."

    June 25, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  22. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    I'm a supporter of Senator Obama.
    My first reaction was how stupid of the justices. I think that any person who harms a defenseless person (a child or an elederly person) deserves the harshest penalty possible.

    Then, I listened to some legal scholars (who are from the right) who explained "proportionality." That is, the punishment should fit the crime. So, I grudgingly allowed my thoughts to swing to it's not a death penalty situation.

    But, I then thought about my own children and I'd want the person who harmed them in that way to face the ultimate penalty.

    Finally, I heard someone say that in order for the state to kill someone, they need to have killed a human being first. And my thought after that was this – if you rape a child, you have killed part of their child for the rest of their lives.

    So, I'm back to it should at least be an option.

    June 25, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  23. Anthony

    The idea of sentencing people to death for crimes where no one has been killed is a terrifyingly slippery slope, and it's very disappointing to hear this coming from the next President. Death is only a suitable punishment for someone who has caused death.

    June 25, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. Justice League

    I have to say I disagree, respectfully on this one. Death penalty is never right. Rehab doesn't seem to work in most cases either. So I would be in favor of castration and very long prison sentences for offenders with no parole possible until sentence is completed. And we as a civilized society should be above killing other human beings, even when they are monsters.

    June 25, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. Rusty, Portland

    The Messiah has spoken. Let us all lay prostrate at his feet.

    June 25, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
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