Spared death in 2008, man loses appeal in child rape case

By Kevin McGill, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 10, 2015 at 7:10 a.m.

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana man whose death sentence for child rape was overturned in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision has lost his bid for a new trial in the case.

Patrick Kennedy was spared from execution in 2008 but remained convicted in the 1998 rape of an 8-year-old. He is serving a life sentence.

In 2013, a federal judge in New Orleans agreed with defense lawyers who said there had been gender discrimination in the selection of grand jury leaders at the time Kennedy was indicted.

But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in a decision released Wednesday evening.

Kennedy has said he did not commit the crime. His appeals led to a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that death sentences for child rape were unconstitutional.

That 5-4 decision invalidated laws in five states and drew criticism at the time from Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and then-Sen. Barack Obama, running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Kennedy was resentenced to life in prison in January 2009, at age 44. He has continued to fight his conviction, moving to federal courts after failing at the state level.

In October 2013, U.S. District Judge Helen Berrigan rejected numerous arguments by the defense. However, she agreed that there was sufficient evidence that when Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, judges selected people to serve as foremen or forewomen of a grand jury, women were too often passed over.

Berrigan's 2013 order, which overruled a state court decision, called for Kennedy's release or re-indictment within six months. However, she agreed to a delay in carrying out her order pending the appeal, citing the violent nature of the crime and the "significant incentive" Kennedy would have to flee to avoid a life sentence, if he were released pending a new trial.

Although the case involved the emotional issue of a child's rape and trial testimony had included gruesome evidence of the girl's injuries, the August hearing before a three-judge 5th Circuit panel centered on dry statistical and legal arguments as to whether the number of grand jury foremen and forewomen cited in defense arguments were drawn from a statistically significant number of grand jury panels.

In Wednesday's ruling rehashing the arguments, the 5th Circuit panel concluded that a state court had been correct in rejecting Kennedy's argument and that Berrigan erred in finding that Kennedy had established a case that discrimination had occurred.

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Kevin McGill


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