Attorneys for Patrick Kennedy, the only person on death row in the U.S. for a non-homicide offense, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether a death sentence for a crime where the victim was not murdered is constitutional. Kennedy was convicted of raping his 8-year-old step-daughter in Louisiana in 1998. Only a handful of states have laws that would allow a death sentence for such a crime. No one has been executed for a non-homicide offense since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and Kennedy is the only person under a death sentence for such an offense.
In a recent editorial, the Los Angeles Times voiced concerns about a Louisiana Supreme Court decision upholding the death sentence of Patrick Kennedy for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. The paper said the Louisiana court's decision to allow the death penalty in such cases could lead states to seek the death penalty for other non-murder crimes, a development that would worsen an already dysfunctional death penalty system. The editorial noted: