The Washington Post, in an unsigned editorial, argues,
There is no crime more heinous than the rape of a child. But does the Constitution allow states to impose the death penalty for such a crime when the child's life has not been taken?Well, if we accept the first premise, the obvious answer is "yes". But homicide is pretty horrific (and that's without getting into, say, mass murder or genocide), so perhaps we shouldn't start playing a game of "My 'heinous' is bigger than yours." The Post recites,
[A coalition of social workers and interest groups that work on behalf of victims of sexual abuse] argues convincingly that the already gross underreporting of child sexual abuse might only be exacerbated if the death penalty were imposed in such cases. In most such cases, the perpetrators are family members or acquaintances; children might be even more frightened to report a crime if they thought they'd be responsible for the death of someone they knew or even loved. Even if the child was brave enough to come forward, a family member with ties to the offender could prevent disclosure to law enforcement authorities.Here's something else that probably should have occurred to them: if the penalty is the same whether you leave your victim alive or dead, some will choose the latter. The "Lindbergh laws" imposing long sentences or even the death penalty for kidnapping are often described as having reduced the chances of recovering a kidnapping victim alive.