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8th Amendment Discussion Notes

8th Amendment Discussion Notes - 8th Amendment Discussion...

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8 th Amendment Discussion Notes* “E “E XCESSIVE XCESSIVE BAIL BAIL SHALL NOT NOT BE REQUIRED REQUIRED , , NOR NOR EXCESSIVE EXCESSIVE FINES IMPOSED , NOR NOR CRUEL CRUEL AND AND UNUSUAL UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS PUNISHMENTS INFLICTED Assignment : Read the background material and cases, and think through the questions at the end of the notes. Background : According to the Supreme Court, the Eighth Amendment forbids some punishments entirely, and forbids some other punishments that are excessive when compared to the crime, or compared to the competence of the perpetrator. In Furman v. Georgia (1972), Justice Brennan wrote, "There are, then, four principles by which we may determine whether a particular punishment is 'cruel and unusual'." The "essential predicate" is "that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity," especially torture. "A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion." "A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society." "A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary." Continuing, he wrote that he expected that no state would pass a law obviously violating any one of these principles, so court decisions regarding the Eighth Amendment would involve a "cumulative" analysis of the implication of each of the four principles. Punishments forbidden regardless of the crime: In Wilkerson v. Utah (1878) , the Supreme Court commented that drawing and quartering, public dissecting, burning alive, or disemboweling would constitute cruel and unusual punishment regardless of the crime. The Supreme Court declared executing the mentally handicapped in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), and executing people who were under age 18 in Roper v. Simmons (2005), to be violations of the Eighth Amendment, regardless of the crime. Punishments forbidden for certain crimes: The case of Weems v. United States (1910) marked the first time that the Supreme Court exercised judicial review to overturn a criminal sentence as cruel and unusual. The Court overturned a punishment called cadena temporal , which mandated "hard and painful labor," shackling for the duration of incarceration, and permanent civil disabilities. This case is often viewed as establishing
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a principle of proportionality under the Eighth Amendment. However, others have written that "it is hard to view Weems as announcing a constitutional requirement of proportionality." In Trop v. Dulles (1958), the Supreme Court held that punishing a natural-born citizen for a crime by taking away his citizenship is unconstitutional, being "more primitive than torture" because it involved the "total destruction of the individual's status in organized society." In Robinson v. California ( 1962), the Court decided that a California law authorizing a 90-day jail sentence for "be[ing] addicted to the use of narcotics" violated the Eighth Amendment, as narcotics addiction "is apparently an illness," and California was attempting to punish people based on the state of this illness, rather than for any specific act. The Court wrote: "To be sure,
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8th Amendment Discussion Notes - 8th Amendment Discussion...

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