CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, April 27, 2008

CrimProf Jeff Fisher Argued Against the Death Penalty for Rapists

Fisher_jeffery From Stanford CrimProf Jeff Fisher is no stranger to the Supreme Court — he’s argued before the high court nine times. But when he stepped in front of the nine justices last week to argue the case of a convicted child rapist hoping to avoid the death penalty, the stakes were higher than they ever have been before.        


Fisher, the co-director of the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, is representing Patrick Kennedy, a Louisiana man who has been sentenced to death for raping his eight year old stepdaughter. If his death sentence is upheld, Kennedy will become the first rapist to be executed in America since 1964.

According to Fisher, such a ruling would open the door to the expansion of the death penalty as punishment for a variety of other crimes, and increase the number of inmates eligible for the ultimate penalty fivefold.

“This was definitely one of the very biggest [cases] that I’ve done, in terms of the intensity and importance,” Fisher said. “The constitutional cases always have a weightier air in the room because the Court really has the final say.”

But the constitutional implications of the case are only partially responsible for its importance to Fisher. The Court’s decision is literally a matter of life and death, something that Fisher saw firsthand after visiting Kennedy in Louisiana’s Angola State Prison.

“There are ways we would love to see this case decided for the development of the law,” Fisher continued, “but once you meet the client and get to know him and understand what the consequences are, everything changes. When you walk out of the prison that day, you say ‘whatever it takes to win this case for the client.’” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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