Most readers have heard about the US Supreme Court's recent decision, Kennedy v. Louisiana, a 5-4 decision concluding that the United States Constitution prohibits imposing the death penalty for child rape. According to the NY Times, one of the rationales for the Court's holding is that child rape is a death penalty offense in only six states and not under federal law.
But that's not correct. A military law blogger, Dwight Sullivan, noted that Congress made child rape a capital offense for members of the armed forces in 2006, and Linda Greenhouse at NYT picked up on the story a few days ago. One of the lawyers involved in arguing the Louisiana position stated that the 2006 law "simply 'eluded everyone’s research.'” Now Justice Department lawyers are issuing a mea culpa, admitting that they should have found the 2006 law and mentioned it in their briefs. And the state of Louisiana is weighing whether they will ask the Court to reconsider the case. It just goes to show you....legal research errors can have big, big consequences.