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The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution - Research Paper Example

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Running Head: THE 8TH AMENDMENT TO THE US CONSTITUTION The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution By Introduction There are, to date, 27 amendments to the US Constitution, of which the first part is known collectively as the US Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is a very significant part of the US Constitution because it provides for the rights of the citizens as against the government and sets a limit upon the vast powers of the government with respect to its conduct in dealing with its citizens…
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The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution
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The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution

Download file to see previous pages... One of the important amendments of the Constitution is the 8th Amendment and its significance lies in the fact that it has, though the years, promoted humane and civilized forms and methods of punishing criminals. This amendment is adopted from an ancient English law and incorporated into the US Constitution at the time its framers were drafting the basic law of the land. The History of the 8th Amendment The 8th Amendment to the US Constitution states thus: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed and no cruel, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The 8th Amendment was first suggested by James Madison, the fourth president of the US, for inclusion to the US Constitution while the framers were working on its draft. The Commonwealth of Virginia, from where Madison hailed, had its own version of the passage incorporated in its Declaration of Rights. Its origin, however, was the 1689 English Bill of Rights. The inclusion of this passage in that law was to limit English courts from imposing punishments and fines that were excessive, cruel and unusual as was the practice of the English courts in the time of the House of Stewarts under King James VI who would impose such punishments such as quartering, boiling alive, disemboweling, decapitation and crushing criminals with heavy weights (Gill 114). On the other hand, the “excessive bail” clause was included in the 1689 law to prevent the English judges from circumventing the Habeas Corpus Act of 1969 by setting bail at very high amounts so arrested persons were unable to meet them. Finally, the “excessive fines” clause was also “intended to limit only those fines directly imposed by, and payable to, the government” (Excessive Bail 2011). Cases Involving the 8th Amendment Most of the cases decided by the US Supreme Court involving the 8th Amendment are related to the issue of the death penalty and its possible infringement of the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the 8th Amendment. Some of the well-known cases involving the 8th Amendment are: Weems v US 217 US 349 (1910); Stack v Boyle 342 US 1 (1951); Furman v Georgia 408 US 238 (1972); Gregg v Georgia 428 US 153 (1976); Browning-Ferris Industries v Kelco Disposal, Inc 492 US 257 (1989), and; Austin v US 509 US 602 (1993). In Weems v US, the US Supreme Court held that the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the 8th Amendment can apply not only to court punishments, but also to legislative laws and rendered the punishment of 14 years of imprisonment with hard labor on top of civil and political disabilities as disproportionate to the crime of falsifying public documents. In Furman v Georgia, the Court ruled that the manner of imposing the death penalty in which there is an absence of standard to guide the jury as to when to impose the death penalty is “cruel and unusual” and therefore unconstitutional. However, in Gregg v Georgia, the Court clarified that the death penalty per se does not infringe the 8th Amendment so long as its imposition is not purely discretionary to the jury and laws exist that define the crimes that should be meted with the death penalty. In Stack v Boyle, the Court held that setting bail at an ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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