Oklahoma on Friday became the fifth state to allow the death penalty for certain sex crimes.
Under the measure signed by Gov. Brad Henry, anyone convicted twice for rape, sodomy or lewd molestation involving children younger than 14 are eligible for execution.
South Carolina’s governor signed a similar law Thursday, allowing the death penalty for offenders convicted twice of raping children younger than 11. Louisiana, Florida and Montana also have laws allowing the death penalty for certain sex crimes.
Defense attorneys and death penalty experts said the laws defy recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have scaled back the death penalty’s application.
Barbara E. Bergman, president of the Washington-based National Assn. of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said Supreme Court decisions have made it clear that the death penalty is reserved for someone who has taken another life.
“I’m not saying that raping a child is not a horrible crime, but no one has died,” said Bergman, a defense attorney for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, who escaped the death penalty after his 2004 conviction on 161 murder counts.