Despite the Supreme Court's 1977 ruling in Coker v. Georgia declaring use of the death penalty for rape unconstitutional, there has been a recent explosion of state statutes making the death penalty available for the rape of a child. Numerous articles have tried to discern whether using the death penalty for child rape comports with the Coker holding-often reaching divergent conclusions-but none has focused first on the socio-political setting that brought about these laws to inform their constitutional analysis. This Article attempts to begin contextualizing capital child rape statutes within a social movements framework. I argue that capital child rape statutes can be attributed to three movements: the popular movement to shame, fear, and isolate sex offenders; the feminist movement for harsher punishment of sexual and intra-familial violence; and the legal and political movement to punish attacks against vulnerable victims with death. Understanding these statutes in a richer way helps shed light on their potential constitutional problems.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Bell, Monica C., "Grassroots Death Sentences? The Social Movment for Capital Child Rape Laws" (2008). Faculty Scholarship Series. 5139.