July 3, 2008
On the same day that Justice Kennedy ruled that "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law authorizing the castration of child rapists. Certain sections of the comentariat-up to and including Fox News-have ridiculed the measure.
Jindal's law replacing execution with castration, however, is not without precedent. When William of Normandy conquered Anglo-Saxon England in 1066 he abolished the death penalty at the urging of the Roman Catholic Church-under whose banner he had won the Battle of Hastings. Nonetheless, a punishment was necessary for capital crimes, so in his Coronation Charter King William said, "I also forbid that anyone shall be slain or hanged for any fault, but let his eyes be put out and let him be castrated..." Justice Kennedy, having followed the inclinations of Bishop Odo, finds himself faced with Bobby Jindal deploying edicts suited to King William. Plus ca change...
This is further evidence that when Kennedy references any sort of "evolving standards of decency" his referent is likely a fiction, and he is merely citing his own preferences and proclivities.