Friday, October 5, 2007

cruel and unusual punishment ??

Amendment VIII (the Eighth Amendment) of the United States Constitution, which is part of the U.S. Bill of Rights, prohibits excessive bail or fines, as well as cruel and unusual punishment. The phrases employed are taken from the English Bill of Rights. The Amendment has been made applicable to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court in 1962 (Robinson v. California 370 U.S. 660)

So why is it that many that are getting ready to be dealt their punishment for crimes commited all of a sudden scream "cruel and unusual punishment!"
I wonder if they thought of their victims rights before they commited the crime or perhaps it just didn't bother them when they were the perp. Once you have been found guilty numerous times beyond a shadow of a doubt it is time for your demise no matter how cruel you may think it to be. Personally I wish the death penalty was an open forum for all to see that wished to see it and just maybe it would leave a lasting impression for generations to come.

Representative Samuel Livermore on cruel and unusual punishment (1789)

The clause seems to express a great deal of humanity, on which account I have no objection to it; but, as it seems to have no meaning in it, I do not think it necessary. . . . No cruel and unusual punishment is to be inflicted; it is sometimes necessary to hang a man, villains often deserve whipping, and perhaps having their ears cut off; but are we in the future to be prevented from inflicting these punishments because they are cruel? If a more lenient mode of correcting vice and deterring others from the commission of it could be invented, it would be very prudent in the Legislature to adopt it; but until we have some security that this will be done, we ought not to be restrained from making necessary laws by any declaration of this kind.

Livermore's comments need to be understood in the context of the discussion. He did not, in the abstract, oppose humane punishments; rather, he was concerned about whether they would be effective. In this, he caught the notion that as society changes, so do ethical norms. At one point, drawing and quartering were considered an appropriate punishment for treason, and the fact that it was cruel and caused terrible suffering only made it even more suitable in the minds of people then as retribution for the most serious crime against the government. In 18th-century America, Livermore was in a minority, as he would have preferred to trust the legislature not to impose inhumane sentences, while retaining the right to use whatever means might be suitable in order to prevent and punish crime. A majority, however, favored putting certain limits on the government; the authors of the Bill of Rights, as well as many people of that Founding generation, had no great trust in government, and they knew from first-hand experience how unrestrained authority could behave.

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