An eight-year-old girl woke suddenly in the early hours of March 8, 1998. Five years later, a jury convicted her step-father, Patrick Kennedy, of her rape. According to state of Louisiana prosecutors, she awoke to the sensation of the 300-pound man atop her small body, one hand undressing her, the other covering her mouth. The bleeding and internal injuries the child sustained from the ensuing rape were so great that she required surgery. Afterwards, according to testimony, Mr. Kennedy called his workplace to say that he would not be in because the child had “become a lady”; he then ordered a cleaning service to remove blood from his carpets before calling 911 to report his step-daughter’s attack and request an ambulance.
For this crime, the Louisiana jury found that Mr. Kennedy deserved to die.
But today, Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens sided with Clinton nominees Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer against that little girl, the people of Louisiana, and the Founders of the United States of America.
The Court bases this fabrication upon the Eighth Amendment. Drafted at a time when child rape was almost unheard-of, but horse theft was a capital crime, the Amendment prohibits punishment that is “cruel and unusual”. But according to Justice Kennedy’s opinion, original intent does not apply. Interpretation is based, he claims, upon “evolving standards of decency”.
Such relativistic thinking is anathema, not simply to the principles that used to undergird the Republican Party, but even to the very idea that principles matter. And for a nation founded on a bedrock of ideas and principles, such judicial activism is truly dangerous.