Ignore the Shiny Thing – Trump Cannot Execute Drug Dealers
As it relates to crimes against individuals, the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken.
-Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008)
Trump has been talking up executing drug dealers as a way to appear tough on crime without actually accomplishing anything. It’s a shiny thing, but the press is buying it.
While there are some residual federal statutes which allow for the death penalty such as treason — colluding with Russia to subvert our elections to choose a random example — the Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment prevents executions for anything other than felony murder.
In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court in Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, held that the death penalty for the rape of an adult was “grossly disproportionate” and an “excessive punishment,” and hence was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The Court looked at the relatively few states that allowed the death penalty for rape and the few death sentences that had been handed down.
Some states passed new laws allowing the death penalty for the rape of a child. In 2007, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Patrick Kennedy for the rape of his step-daughter, LOUISIANA v. KENNEDY (No. 05-KA-1981, May 22, 2007). Kennedy was convicted in 2003. However, Louisiana’s law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25, 2008. See Kennedy v. Louisiana for more information. This decision also held that the death penalty would be disproportionate for any offense against an individual that did not involve death of the victim.
So this is all just noise.