Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court (by 5 to 4) in Kennedy v. Louisiana voted to declare unconstitutional a Louisiana statute authorising the death penalty for raping a child, even if there was no loss of life: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-343.pdf. The Court applyied its eighth amendment jurisprudence, by which punishment must be consistent with 'evlolving standards of decency'. International human rights law prohibits capital punishment, although States that still retain the death penalty may still use it for the 'most serious crimes' (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 6(2)). It is usually argued that the concept of 'most serious crimes' means that the crime must involve intentional loss of life, although some States continue to apply it for crimes such as drug trafficking and, in a few cases, adultery(!).
You will never guess who criticised the Court's opinion: 'I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes. I think that the rape of a small child, six or eight years old, is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution.' Those are the words of the Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.
Thanks to Bill Harzog for this.