DOJ admits overlooking military law in rape case

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The US Department of Justice said Wednesday that it had mistakenly failed to brief the Supreme Court on the existence of a military law allowing capital punishment for child rape before the court decided the case of Kennedy v. Louisiana. In Kennedy, the court held 5-4 that a death sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a crime in which the victim was not killed. The majority supported its reasoning by saying that very few states had such laws and that - incorrectly - there were no federal laws allowing the punishment for rape. In its admission, the DOJ noted that a 2006 amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Conduct does in fact allow the death penalty at court-martial for rape and child rape. Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said lawyers for the state are considering whether or not to petition the court to reconsider the case. The oversight was first raised Saturday by a civilian Air Force lawyer in his blog on military justice.

The Supreme Court's holding reversed a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court of Louisiana. The high court ruling has already been criticized by a wide range of lawmakers.

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