Governor Signs Bill That Makes The Death Penalty A Potential Punishment For Child Rape Convictions

PhotoCredit: WZTV

Child rape convictions can now result in the death penalty, in Tennessee. This comes after Governor Bill Lee has approved the legislation.

In May, Lee discreetly signed off on the bill without providing a statement.

The new law will go into effect on July 1. It will allow the state to pursue capital punishment when adults are found guilty of aggravated rape of a child. Those who are found guilty could face the death penalty, imprisonment for life without possibility of parole, or imprisonment for life.

The state used to allow convicted child rapists to face the death penalty. But, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately got rid of the law, in 2018. It stated that it was unconstitutional to use capital punishment in child sexual battery matters.

Now, the hope is that the Supreme Court will overturn that ruling.

Lee stated that he signed the bill because crimes against children are “some of the most heinous that there are.”

Opponents of the law feel that it may discourage child rape victims from speaking out if it could lead to an execution. They know that many children are abused by relatives and close associates. Others have noted that the predators could feel as if they need to kill their victims so that they won’t receive a harsher consequence.

The law regarding execution in the U.S. notes that crimes must involve a victim’s death or betrayal against the country in order to be eligible for the death penalty.

Almost 40 years ago, the Supreme Court determined that execution is too harsh a punishment for sexual assault. Additionally, the justices made a similar determination in 2008 in a matter involving the rape of a child.

Right now, all executions in Tennessee have been placed on hold. This is as state officials look at the changes to its lethal injection methods. Governor Lee put a pause to the executions after a 2022 report. It found several flaws in how Tennessee inmates are put to death.

It isn’t known when those changes will be completed.

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