Though the ruling will disallow a portion of Texas' statute and the state participated in an amici brief to support Louisiana's position, the ruling will affect no pending Texas cases. That's because, cleverly, the House members involved with Texas' 2007 Jessica's Law - notably Jerry Madden and Dan Gattis along with Rep. Debbie Riddle who accepted their amendments on the House floor - found a way to put off the real-world application of the death penalty with a bit of legislative sleight of hand.
They created a new statute - "continuous sexual abuse of a child" - which did not previously exist in the world, so no one had ever violated it before. Since the first conviction for this new crime gets a mandatory 25 year sentence before parole could even be considered, the first possible Texas death sentence for this crime could have come sometime around 2033.
I didn't support the final product and still think it has other problems, but I've gotta give Gattis, Madden and Riddle credit for a nifty piece of law-writing, performed in a highly politicized environment with lots of pressure from the leadership to pass a bill including a death sentence. Thanks to their prudence, Texas avoided having DAs pursue high-profile, emotion-filled death-penalty cases based on what turned to be an unconstitutional premise. For once we didn't actually step in the cow patty before having to clean it up.
See the SCOTUSWiki page on Kennedy, a roundup from the Stand Down blog, and related coverage from Doc Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy. Here's the intial New York Times coverage.
UPDATE: See the statement on Kennedy from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault in support of the SCOTUS opinion, as well as intitial reactions from Corey Yung at the Sex Crimes blog.
NUTHER UPDATE: Shannon Edmonds from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association emails to say I'm remembering the House version of "Jessica's Law," that the version that cleared the Senate did include the death penalty for near-term offenses. Writes Edmonds:
First, most prosecutors did not support the death penalty provision; in fact, several elected prosecutors (including John Bradley) publicly testified against that provision during committee hearings on the bill, and even after its passage, no prosecutor has sought death in any such case, so I think your fears about Texas leaping before it looked are misplaced.
Second, the death penalty provisions of Jessica's Law applied to the repeat commission of certain "super"-aggravated sexual assaults against children. It did not apply to continuous sexual assault of a child. (Earlier House versions of the bill did so, but that was changed in the Senate).
Third, due to the particular wording of the statute, the death penalty was very much on the table for those repeat "super"-aggravated offenders as of September 1, 2007.
Fourth, at the urging of prosecutors, the law included a savings provision that ensured a sentence of life without parole for those "super"-aggravated offenders would survive an adverse ruling from SCOTUS.