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. Belle

    As an incest survivor, I am grateful that I am alive. I don't think killing my Uncle would have helped.

    What helps is loving people that don't think it is your fault. I was five...how could it have been my fault? I thought it was until I was 13 and a foster parent grabbed me in a bear hug, held me and said she would not let me go until I knew I was loved. I started sobbing that day...and started healing.

    June 25, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  2. Peter E

    You know if Bush was talking about the Supreme Court being activist and being pro-death penalty the liberal left would be talking smack 'he's being a racist, reactionary caveman.' But now that Obama is por-death penalty (and, by the way, also pro-states' rights) they somehow completely forget their previous criticism.

    June 25, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  3. No smoke or mirrors

    Let's see, he takes heat for backing the court on habeus corpus rights for the gitmo gang. Would it be politically wise to get caught agreeing with them on another left leaning decision so soon? Nope! I don't believe he cares either way. Knowing that the court is the final word anyhow, he does the politically expedient thing and disagrees. He's courting evangelicals and soccer moms these days. Supporting pedophiles would be hard to explain, so he takes the path of least resisitance. Just another politician.

    June 25, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  4. Mr B

    There are other heinous crimes out there besides murder. When a crime is crusome , for me, it turns on whistle and bells , questioning how someone could do such a thing. Death penalties and the threat of going will not deter crime, but the death penalty and prison should and does allow us to know, that your crime will not go unpunished. Thats what judgement does in this life and the after life

    June 25, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. ES NYC

    Public opinion in western countries like France, Germany and Great Britain where death penalty has been abolished for quite some time agree with this.Recent public opinion polls on the matter show that most favor the death penalty for child murderers and child rapists.
    It's a tough one though...I am anti-death penalty, as mistakes are made and innocents are put to death and the deterrent factor has not been proven, but as a father i agree with Obama. This is the most heinous of all crimes.

    June 25, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  6. Jim

    I suspect that life in prison would be FAR worse than a death sentence for a child molester.

    In general, I support the death sentence. But until there is much better application of technology in presecutions and absolute certainty that an innocent person will not be convicted, I can not say that it should be applied at this time.

    June 25, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  7. Songbird McCain

    I think the rape of a child is one of the most heinous acts one can commit, and I'm all for the most extreme of punishments for perpetrators it should include castration, public flogging and then execution. and not the "humane" gentle executions we have these days. beheading, hanging, firing squad and worse methods of execution should be reserved for these criminals. There is nothing human about a person who would see a child as a sexual object to use and abuse, so there should be nothing "humane" in the punishment they get.Those types of offenders cannot be rehabilitated and they are a waste of resources to keep alive at the taxpayers expense. They can best pay back society as organ donors.

    June 25, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Peter E

    Ooo.... and that picture looks like he's actually taking a stance and doing leader-like things... Good job CNN, disguising the fact that Obama never actually DID anything but talk, talk, talk...

    June 25, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  9. A bitter mid westerner who loves guns and God

    And this is the guy that :

    Obama also opposed legislation making it easier to impose the death penalty for murders committed as part of gang activity. Obama argued the language was too vague and could be abused by authorities.

    WOW. Having an election certainly seems to change some peoples minds.

    Obama will say or do anything to get elected. But he won't be.

    He wants to take our guns away from us too. And he is pro abortion.

    June 25, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  10. Kick Hillary to the Curb

    YES they should get the death penalty, these are heinous crimes!!!

    June 25, 2008 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  11. Brenda D

    After all of the push to convince everyone of Senator Obama's Christianity, I was supprised to hear that he supports the death penalty. There are so many Christians who do not.

    I am not surprised that there was no follow-up from the media. What else is new?


    June 25, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  12. Peter E

    His mind was also 5-4 split.
    Flip -flopper!

    June 25, 2008 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  13. Peter E

    Wow... Obama actually got something right! By LISTENING to people instead of zombifying them with cheesy slogans... we may have a good politician afterall. But I doubt it...

    June 25, 2008 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  14. steinway

    barry's pandering to the religious right (moving to center where he thinks he can dupe the simple minded)...now you know he was listening to rev. wright.

    until you can give life don't be too quick to take it.

    June 25, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  15. Gary

    The State should not be killing anyone for a crime. Period. What the hell are we, Iran??

    June 25, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  16. How interesting . . .

    NOW Obama wants to be "fair" and "tough" on juvenile crime.

    In 1999, Barack Obama was faced with a difficult vote in IL — to support a bill that would let some juveniles be tried as adults - where he risked drawing fire from African-Americans – or, in opposing it, jeopardizing his image as “tough on crime.” So in the end, he voted neither for nor against the bill. He voted “present” - an option he chose 130 times as a state senator.

    You're still only "present," Obama!

    June 25, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  17. PeterP


    You can agree or disagree with Obama, but I am exited that we are about to elect a president who can form a coherent and thoughtful English sentence....Bravo Obama!

    I can't wait for him to win the presidency. So I don't have to cringe or bow my head in shame whenever my president speaks in English.

    June 25, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  18. bhagwan deol

    i fully agree that molesting an innocent child is unforgivable crime.
    but once the life is taken there is no possibility of correctiveness.
    we have seen and herst in the past that innocent people have been executed.
    in my humble opinion the worst punishment is to let a criminal rot in a cell for whole life. ececution is a pain for few minutes and the criminal is sleep for ever. OBAMA AS EVER IS SIDING WITH EMOTIONS TO COLLECT FEW MORE CONSERVATIVE VOTES. BEING EXTREME LIBERAL HE IS SUPPOSED TO BE ANTI DEATH PENALTY.
    taking and giving life is in the hands of GOD and humans can punish but not take life
    bhagwan deol los angeles

    June 25, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  19. Gregory Oliver

    I am a supporter of Obama and I am disappointed that he has taken this stand. It is easy to label such a horrific crime as heinous. Is raping a woman at gun point not heinous, is raping a helpless man not heinous. I am opposed to the death penalty for a number of reasons, but even if you support the death penalty it is understood that there are limits to when it should be used. I have always understood it to be when someone has been died. When a life is lost. Of course when you say you do not think it is constitutional for a child rapist to be executed you are immediately labeled as a supporter of child rapists. I need to know when and how we limit certain states from deciding which crimes are now heinous. People will always push the limit and that scares me almost as much as child rapists.

    June 25, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  20. dictator

    I understand Obama's point on this...But life is the most precious gift that any human being has. Only the person who gives it (life)has the right to take it. no matter what we call it : a death sentence is still crime; as committed by a criminal or by the state. we cannot on this age tolarate the tallonic' law ( an eye for an eye ) to be at play.
    I still strongly believe that death sentence is a luxury punishment to any type of crime. instead let us apply the life sentence which gives criminals no way out; to escape the gilt for what they did wrong. Although most of you believe such criminals lack conscience, but I guarentee you they have one.
    we cannot at any circonstance promote capital punishment.
    Ob. You still have my vote.

    June 25, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. bec

    this was a tough decision, but the SC has to make decisions based strictly on law, not what we think they deserve. many people are unfairly accused and convicted of crimes. not to mention that a death sentence would probably cause more predators to kill their victims so they don't get caught.

    and what about adult victims of rape? rape is violence and torture – it's not about sex. i don't know how it would be legal for it to apply to one group of perpretrators based on their victims and not others.

    europeans think we're barbaric for having the death penalty period. the death penalty won't solve the problem. we have to come up with ways to prevent these things from happening and help the victims.

    June 25, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  22. Texas Trail Dog




    June 25, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  23. Henry

    what a message our Supreme Court has sent by this decision, basically condoning child rape. rapists and child molesters currently serve an average of 3 years behind bars for their unspeakable acts.

    June 25, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  24. bec

    also, alot of you people are misinformed. it was the liberal judges who made this decision – the conservatives dissented, so obama's agreed with the conservatives on this one. personally, i think it was a correct decision.

    obama just doesn't want to look "soft" or liberal.

    June 25, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  25. Mrs. Wilson

    I hope this man receives what he gave to that child everyday for the rest of his sorry life...........pain and agony.

    Change '08

    June 25, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
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