WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether a state can execute someone convicted of raping a child, one of the few remaining crimes that does not require the death of the victim to result in capital punishment.

Patrick Kennedy, 43, was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter in Louisiana. He is one of two people in the United States, both in Louisiana, who have been condemned to death for a rape that was not also accompanied by a killing.

The Supreme Court banned executions for rape in 1977 in a case in which the victim was an adult woman.

Kennedy's lawyers say the death penalty for child rape violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The court is to hear arguments in the case in April.

The last executions for rape or any other crime that did not include a victim's death were in 1964.

Forty-five states ban the death penalty for any kind of rape, and the five others allow it for child rapists.