What's at Stake
Whether a state may constitutionally impose the death penalty for the rape of a child. DECIDED
In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution prohibits imposition of the death penalty for the rape of an adult. In arguing that the same rule should apply regardless of the age of the victim, the amicus brief submitted by the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. documents the stark, racially discriminatory history of applying the death penalty for rape. Indeed, as the brief points out, there is apparently no instance in which the death penalty was ever imposed against a white defendant accused of raping a black woman. By contrast, there are literally hundreds of cases – overwhelmingly in the South — in which black defendants were put to death for raping white women.