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. Paulo

    I agree with Obama it is a heinous crime.

    They should face the death penalty.

    As the child will suffer for the rest of their life.

    Why should these men who committee this crime be allowed to continue to rape children.

    If not death penalty, castrate them like a dog.

    I just don't understand people who are criticising Obama. It's a disgusting crime. Maybe these people who don't agree should find out what it like for the victim of these crime.

    June 25, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  2. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    Good going Obama, tell them like it is! Okay, people you ain't seen nothing yet, "it's only just begun"

    Go get UM! Obama

    June 25, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  3. Rick Tanner

    i'm baffled at the comments on this thread. how can anyone state that rape is worse than death? my mother was a victim of child rape, and her life has been worth more to me, and all of her grandchildren, than anything in the world. to say that her death would have been better than rape is merely an emotional reaction to an extremely hurtful act. but why not let the rapist suffer in prison receiving a lifetime of the same pain they inflicted on others.

    June 25, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  4. Sal

    i totally agree with Obama. let the states decide. child rape ruins a child's life forever, steals their innocence, and mentally, emotionally leaves them scarred forever. i don't believe this man is playing politics, he saying what he believes, and he will be the next President of the United States.

    Obama '08

    June 25, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  5. Frisco Texas for Obama

    I am usually against the death penalty but when it comes to pedophiles I feel they should rot in hell. This to me is the worse thing a person can do, to rape a little girl like that to where he destroys her womb and he only gets life. He needs to be dead 20 times over in a very very very painful way. I have never known anyone to be a victim of child rape like this but this is the worse thing imagineable and HE SHOULD DIE SLOW AND PAINFUL!

    June 25, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  6. Diane

    Even though I wouldn't mind seeing every "real" pedophile dead, I have to agree with the decision of the Supreme Court. Oh, I don't agree with their reasoning – I don't think it's cruel and unusual punishment – I think that if a perpatrator knows he's going to die if caught, he will have no problem with killing the child. I would prefer the child alive and getting whatever help he/she might need rather than dead because the criminal knew he would be executed if caught. On this instance, I have to disagree with Obama, even though I can understand his position.

    June 25, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  7. SusanE

    the fifth justice (Justice kennedy) who struck it down was put in there by Reagan. not a clear cut liberal vs conservative. This is why Obama has called for finding other language to describe our differences. when you have a dozen varieties of "conservatives" social, fiscal, neocon, etc. and as many varieties labeled liberals and then have many of their positions overlapping they have become meanings pejorative labels it seems to me. Obama is the constitutional law professor and has the gravitas to both correctly label this as a heinous crime and to determine that this doesn't violate the constitution that doesn't specify that only murder can result in the death penalty. I thought treason could also, if I'm not mistaken. i am another Obama supporter who is generally on spiritual grounds not a death penalty supporter because i think everyone should be given the chance to reflect and repent of their sins and seek redemption. i also think it leads to a more brutal society in general, let alone all the people who down the road have been proven to be innocent. on the other hand the pragmastist in me responds to the argument why is the taxpayer paying to support them for the rest of their life, and the child who has had their life ruined deserves to know justice and that they are safe.

    June 25, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  8. Posn

    I totally agree with Sen Obama, I dont like the death penalty but I like his stance on this issue. All you haters stop being so bitter about Sen Obama. McCain seems to have the deer in the headlights look to me.

    June 25, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  9. Amazing.

    I've officially seen it all. The kool-aid is overflowing into the streets. Obama is endorsing a conservative position, and his legion of followers, with the majority being democratic voters, sing his praises. These are the same voters that have aligned themselves with a party that OPPOSES the death penalty for convicted murderers. This is really sick. The obscene obsession with Obama reminds me of a cult following. No one thinks for themselves anymore...they just listen to what Obama says and then sing his praises. This is demonstrated by the number of people on here that are saying GWB would have been too soft on a ruling like this...WAKE UP PEOPLE...GWB appointed TWO of the FOUR judges that voted for the death penalty! GWB is FOR THE DEATH PENALTY. That being said, I still don't think GWB is a good president, but there is no way I would ever sip Obama's kool-aid.

    June 25, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  10. Jesper

    So let me get this straight. Obama is against a child rapist. However, he fully supports partial birth abortion where a child (not fetus) is disgustingly killed by a doctor. And, if the child happens to survive the child birth abortion...the doctor is NOT required to try and save its life...according to Barack Obama. hellnobama.com

    June 25, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  11. Michele, Oregon

    I'm Roman Catholic and we believe in the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb, so while I agree that rape is a TERRIBLE, HEINOUS crime and needs to be dealt with, cannot agree with Senator Obama who I will definitely be voting for. Jesus died for the innocent AND the guilt (thank God for this!), and we cannot treat any human being as being away from redemption even when it is popular to do so.

    Alot of Republicans will say, how could you vote for Obama considering his abortion stance? First of all am not voting for him on this position but he and his administration will be more concerned about poverty, the environment, ending the war, etc. - all life issues. I find it a bit contradictory that republicans who more often are against abortion, are much, much less interested in the welfare of children once they are born!

    June 25, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  12. A Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    So the limp wristed Obama thinks he is smarter than the Supreme Court. Oh my, first it was the US Senate, then the Presidency, now the Supreme Court. My how can we be so blessed and exalted with the existence of Obama. We are truly lucky to have such a persona.

    By the way, where was he when he could have joined Uncle Sam's finest? Did he try to serve our country or did he have other priorities. I heard he went to school to learn how to wear gloves, while shoveling a couple of sandbags. Nice looking gloves.

    From his photo, I think he belongs in a home at Providence Town.

    June 25, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  13. Oblunder

    Hm... so is Obama saying child rape is heinous, but teenage rape or senior citizen rape.. not so bad? What age is rape ok for him? If we allow the killing of child rapist, it will open the door to killing all rapist. Or for the State to kill anyone for any crime as long as it's considered "heinous". Is that the future we should expect? Personally I think the death penalty is too kind for child rapist, they should spend life in jail getting raped my other inmates and live with the pain and shame forever. The people who agree with Obama on this are following there hearts, not there heads. The Supreme Court was right on this decision, Obama is wrong.

    June 25, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  14. Cynthia

    I agree with Senator Obama. For those of you saying otherwise, replace the question with your child's name and I'm sure you would change your mind or worse.

    June 25, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  15. Jereme

    As much as I loathe pedophilia, the death penalty is not justice, it's revenge. The Supreme Court is correct in striking down the Louisiana law.

    June 25, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  16. Peter E

    Oh, so NOW the liberal left is a proponent of death penalty...

    June 25, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  17. Peter E

    So NOW the liberalmost senator calls the liberal left wing of the Supreme Court 'activist...'

    June 25, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |

    First of all, he was not paid to say anything ; he's a father. The emotions a parent has toward children i s one of concern and ultimate protection.Rape is not some misdemeanor minot little crime. RAPE CHANGES A PERSON FOREVER. Personally, I'd give them an option, but I won't state EXACTLY what that would be as I don't wish to offend those decent men herein.
    Our prisons are brimming over with drug addicts who really should be receiving treatment. Make room for the pedophiles and rapists that get off far to lightly. I am a progressive but I BELIEVE IN AN EYE FOR AN EYE.
    These lowlifes dwell amongst us, in schools and churches and we are legally so powerless to do anything about it. Time to send a message.

    June 25, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  19. Ben

    While I support Obama, I disagree with him. Yes, raping children is horrible, but I think the death penalty is more of a revenge than justice.

    June 25, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. Bart

    By coincidence today in Canada they exonerated a man who 20 yrs ago was send to prison for Rape of a child. The girls mother picked him out of a light up and he was charged. During trial, his lawyer advised him to take a plea deal. He did, he confessed to child rape because he felt that the jury was leaning to find him guilty and give him the maximum sentence. 2 years ago, a convicted Murderer, confessed to this crime and gave very chilling details regarding the crime. If Canada had the death penalty in this case an innocent man could have been killed. State murder is wrong no matter what the crime. There have been several cases of people being killed for crimes they did not commit, the lucky ones were exonerated while on death row but several others. In December 2000, after spending fourteen years on Florida's Death Row, Frank Lee Smith was finally cleared of the rape and murder of eight-year-old Shandra Whitehead.

    June 25, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. Obama Rocks!

    While I am an avid Obama supporter- I disagree with this one because I am duly opposed to the death penalty, no matter what the crime. I don't think we should dole out justice that we can't repair- we can't give back the life of a convicted rapist if it turns out he or she did not actually do it; there is no such thing as beyond reasonable doubt!

    June 25, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  22. jane


    June 25, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  23. Peter E

    Why not take a clue from China, the number one executioner of criminals (number 2 after the US in the industrialized world). Execute for opening your mouth!

    June 25, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  24. MD

    I thought eye for an eye was a part of Islam. Death penalty for murderers sure sounds like the Supreme Court is buying into eye for an eye doctrine.

    Raping a 6 or 8 yead old is somewht worse than murder because that child has to live with the horror and trauma of the rape for the rest of her or his life.

    The Supreme Court should protect the public. Its interpretation of killing the rapist of a young child as cruel and unusual punishment is a stretch.

    June 25, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  25. Loretta from California

    at least he is proficient, which is more than I can say about George W. Bush and his inability to speak standard English.

    I'll take it. Give me a pause that will eventually lead to a complete sentence.


    June 25, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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