Patrick Kennedy, 43, raped an 8 year old girl and now the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that he may be executed for the rape.  Both sides say the sentence could expand a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held the death penalty for rape violated the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.  The high court said then that its ruling applied only to adult victims.  Louisiana law allows the death penalty for the aggravated rape of someone less than 12 years old.  Kennedy was convicted in 2003 of raping a relative as she sorted Girl Scout cookies in the garage of her home in suburban New Orleans.  He bragged to one man that the girl became a lady today, deputies said.

The governors of South Carolina and Oklahoma signed laws last year allowing the death penalty for people who repeatedly rape children.  A bill that would allow the death penalty for a second offense of child rape is awaiting the governor's decision in Texas.  Georgia law allows death as a penalty for rape.  Florida and Montana also have such laws, but authorities have said the penalty would be invoked only for rape of a child.

The Supreme Court agreed on January 4, 2008 to decide whether a state can execute someone convicted of raping a child, one of the few remaining crimes that does not require the death of the victim to result in capital punishment.  Kennedy was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8 year old stepdaughter in Louisiana in 1998.  He is the only person on death row in the United States for a rape that was not also accompanied by a killing.  The justices will hear arguments in the case in April.