07/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Switching Sides On The Death Penalty

There is an inner voice in my head that can't stop screaming!

I've heard it since last week when the United States Supreme Court declared the rape of a child under the age of 12 should not - cannot - be punished by death. That, a majority of the court ruled, is not a "proportional punishment."

The case before the court came from Louisiana, representing the only two men in the entire country who faced death for what they did to small children. One repeatedly raped a five year old. The other attacked his own 8 year old daughter so viciously she required surgery. The court concluded their actions did not rise to the level of crimes that deserve death, namely crimes against the state (like treason) or murder.

Part of my logical brain wants to scream into the faces of the Supreme Court Justices to come to their collective senses, the other part of my brain reminds me I am against the death penalty.

I truly believe that the evil behind murder is comparable to the evil that fuels the rape of a child. The perpetrator can literally kill vital parts of the child - their ability to trust, to love, to find intimacy. Often no true peace can be found for a child who has been brutally, sexually savaged by an adult. On some level, and sometimes it is profound, their suffering constitutes a life sentence of psychological confusion.

My husband and I have long argued about capitol punishment over morning coffee and newspapers. I maintain the real punishment comes with keeping the monster locked up every single day of his life, condemned to a live where other inmates often prey on criminals who've targeted children. To execute him lets him off easy. And besides, I believe, when the state takes a life it is killing ... the very act we say we abhor.

My husband scoffs at my argument that keeping convicts in prison is worse punishment as a vast majority on death row would take life over execution any day. He also believes society has the right to mete out punishment that is commensurate with the crime, death for death. And death for child rape if a state so decides.

There are countless pro and con debate points on capital punishment, including the false conviction rate, the cost comparison of life in prison versus death and the religious principle "Thou shall not kill." Some make the point that the high court has stepped outside its narrow constitutional function to decide points of policy and the narrow 5 to 4 decision proves that.

There isn't enough space in this entire newspaper to do justice to all the arguments. And experts say those who have made up their minds whether they are for it or against it are unlikely to switch opinions.

Really? Because my anti-death penalty resolve dissolves when you talk about harm to a child. I guess that makes me a hypocrite.

To say that I surprise myself on my reaction to the Supreme Court ruling is an understatement. How can I even think they were incorrect in that ruling if I am truly against the death penalty? I agreed when the Court banned executions for the mentally retarded and under aged - but not this.

I can't help but think of the horror a small child faces during the act. The terror, confusion and physical pain an infant, toddler or elementary school child endures at the hand of an adult acting like an animal with no regard to their innocence or future state of mind. I want retribution; I have the urge to kill. I border on being ashamed of that feeling and feeling consoled that such an act would rid the world of a wicked fiend.

Those two men in Louisiana will now be sentenced to life without parole and the state will have to change its law on child rapists. So will the legislatures in Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and probably Georgia (the status of this state's law is in doubt) And the three other states in the process of writing laws to make it a capitol offense to rape a child, Missouri, Colorado and Alabama, are also wondering what their next course of action might be.

Troy King, the Attorney General of Alabama sounds as though his state may decide to fight the decision. "Anybody in the country who cares about children should be outraged what we have a Supreme Court that would issue a decision like this."

I am among the outraged. In effect the Supreme Court has said society must wait for the child to be murdered too before enacting our harshest punishment.

Diane Dimond's website is You can reach her at