Child rape, moral outrage, and the death penalty

Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
In *Engaging Capital Emotions,* Douglas Berman and Stephanos Bibas argue that emotion is central to understanding and evaluating the death penalty, and that the emotional case for the death penalty for child rape may be even stronger than for adult murder. Both the Berman and Bibas article and the subsequent Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana (striking down the death penalty for child rape) raise difficult questions about how to measure the heinousness of crimes other than murder, and about the role the pain suffered by victims and victims' families should play in this inquiry. In this Reply, I agree with the authors on the importance of confronting emotion's role in capital punishment, for reasons I discuss in Part A. However, I disagree with their claim that the moral outrage evoked by child rape supports making it a capital crime. Part B explores the difficulties of using the existence of moral outrage as a measure of appropriate punishment. Part C argues that the penal system should not merely reflect moral outrage, but channel and educate it. It suggests that the availability of the death penalty may create an anchoring effect, communicating the message that the death penalty is the proper way to express moral outrage and to honor the worth of murder victims. It explores the consequences of this message. Section II focuses on the role of emotion in deciding whether child rape should be a capital crime. Part A considers the problematic role of victim harm in determining whether the death penalty is appropriate. It explores the question, raised in Kennedy v Louisiana, of whether the effect of a capital trial on child rape victims ought to be part of the calculus. Part B argues that there are three particular problems with allowing juries to sentence child rapists to death: the deleterious effect of anger and empathy, the problem of generic prejudice, and the issue of race.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
BANCRM
Revision history
Archival date: 2015-10-25
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total views
218 ( #13,312 of 39,581 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #36,118 of 39,581 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.