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The Eighth Amendment and Death Penalty

By:   •  January 20, 2019  •  Case Study  •  1,450 Words (6 Pages)  •  900 Views

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        The Eighth Amendment and death penalty is a topic that is often brought up, especially in today’s society.  Most Americans can have a controversial discussion about whether the death penalty is considered cruel and unusual.  The 8th Amendment protects citizens from cruel and unusual punishments but does not explain what that means.  Thus, requiring the courts to review cases ensuring the suspect is getting proper sentencing.  In order for the courts to choose proper sentencing, they must look at the totality of the circumstances of the case.  This means the court will not sentence an offender who just committed larceny to a death sentence.  Yet, an offender who just committed murder could have the possibility of getting the death penalty.  Although the 8th amendment does not specifically state what is considered cruel or unusual punishments are, the founding fathers allowed the definition to be vague enough for society and the courts to determine what is considered cruel or unusual.  This is due to the ever-changing standards society has and allows society to determine what is cruel and unusual.

        Since there is no set definition of what is considered cruel and unusual, the courts have set and adopted policies to further clarify the considerations. The Furman v. Georgia case was extremely important in the meaning and review of the death penalty.  In 1972, the Furman v. Georgia case was reviewed by the Supreme Court.  In this case, the court ruled the Eighth Amendment was violated because the death penalty was unequal and discriminatory to Furman (“Furman v. Georgia,” n.d.).  The case further enforced other states to rearview their laws of the death penalty ensuring future rulings would not be biased or unequal.  This meant states would still issue out death penalties but would have to justify even more of why the offender deserved the death penalty.  This is where the bifurcated trial procedure would be created by numerous states to ensure the reasoning of the death penalty was justified by justified factors (LSTD 301, 2018).  This procedure would also give the defendant reasonings of why they do not deserve the death penalty and give evidence of why they made the mistake.  Furthering this case was Gregg v. Georgia in which Gregg brought up that the death punishment was cruel.  The Supreme Court reviewed the case and found that Georgia’s laws had supportive evidence in the sentencing and affirmed the death penalty sentencing.  

         Although the death penalty has never been abolished, it still requires thorough evidence, guidelines to be followed, and can be timely.    In 2018, eight states carried out twenty-five executions of offenders in the United States (“Execution List,” 2018).  Each prisoner can look at ten to twenty years before the execution actually takes place from the time they are sentenced to death and spend roughly 23 hours a day in their cell (“Death Row,” n.d.).  This has brought up debate as to whether the prisoners are being treated unfairly while in solitary confinement.  I personally do not believe these inmates are being treated unfairly, nor do I agree or disagree with the death penalty.  I would say if an offender is convicted of a heinous crime while the courts and evidence produced were lawful, then I would support it.  However, I would also have to support a quick and painless death because no person should have to be sentenced to death with any pain.  The offender might have caused pain to another family, but the offender is being put to death, which will give the family closure.  Being tortured would be unconstitutional and cruel.


Execution list 2018. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Furman v. Georgia. (n.d.). Retrieved from

LSTD 301, Constitutional Law Lesson Seven, (2018). American Military Public University System. Retrieved from:

Time on death row. (n.d.). Retrieved from



        Great post this week!  I personally found this weeks forum to be quite interesting and learned about quite of bit of information pertaining to the death penalty.  The Eighth Amendment was designed and written to be vague enough for future leaders and courts to determine what is

acceptable in terms of cruel and unusual punishments.  As society changes, the meaning of cruel and unusual is allowed to change with time.  I think the founding fathers knew that as society changes, their viewpoint on the death penalty and other instances could change.  The Fourteenth Amendment, which you explained, is important valid and important in regards to the death penalty.  The Fourteenth Amendment requires due process which requires the court to receive all evidence and look at the totality of the circumstances.  Like you said, this meant the founding fathers knew the death penalty might be considered as a punishment.  


        During some research on the death penalty, I learned twenty-five prisoners were executed (by lethal injections) in 2018 and these prisoners were waiting ten to twenty years to be executed (“Death Row,” n.d.).  To me, that seems like a long time to know you were sentenced to death and to be in a cell for hours and hours, waiting for the last day.  I personally don’t condone or condemn the death penalty, but I do believe offenders should not go through agony.  I also agree with some of the more current cases, such as the Atkins v. Virginia and Roper v. Simmons cases.  Mentally handicap and juveniles should not be sentenced to death for the sole reason they cannot make sound decisions.  Although juveniles can still be charged as adults, executing juveniles does not allow the juvenile to mature and possibly be rehabilitated.  Mentally handicap, which is kind of obvious, should not be executed because they cannot make decisions like others.  The Eighth Amendment is in no doubt vague, but it was meant to be so society and the courts can determine what constitutes as cruel and unusual.  


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