Republican State Rep. John Becker, has stated that he will introduce a bill to expand the death penalty to certain sex offenses.
According to the Associated Press, Becker would change state law to allow the death penalty in certain cases of rape, sexual battery and improper sexual contact with a minor.
Becker – who is from Clermont County – said that his proposal is motivated by the Ariel Castro case. (Irony: Castro wouldn’t be eligible for the death penalty under Becker’s proposal.)
What is wrong with this? Only that it is flatly unconstitutional.
In 2008, the United States Supreme Court decided Kennedy v. Louisiana. In that case, the Court declared that a Louisiana law providing for the death penalty for the rape of a child was unconstitutional. The Court’s decision effectively prohibits states from executing persons for crimes “where the victim’s life was not taken.” (The Court left an exception for “crimes against the state” such as treason, espionage and terrorism.
Becker’s proposal comes as Republicans in the Ohio Legislature announced plans to again push the so-called “heartbeat” anti-abortion bill. The supporters of the bill openly acknowledge that it is unconstitutional under existing Supreme Court precedents.
Political grandstanding has a long, bipartisan, history.
Pushing for tougher penalties against criminals and sex offenders is part of the Republican playbook. They have to try to look tough on crime even as funding to actually support law enforcement in Ohio has been cut.
But we draw the grandstanding line at the Constitution.
The Ohio Constitution, § 15.07, requires that every legislator and the Governor “take an oath or affirmation, to support the Constitution of the United States . . .” (Irony: the link to the Ohio Constitution is provided by the Ohio Legislature.)
Republicans need to start taking that oath seriously and stop introducing unconstitutional laws.