The purpose of this series of articles is to describe and interpret the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, which were adopted in 1789 and which distinguish the United States Constitution from those of other countries. Both sides of the arguments for or against a particular amendment will be given, leaving the reader free to make their own interpretation.
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
The Eighth Amendment has often been raised in the area of death penalty cases.
The issue of how to humanely impose a sentence of death has always been controversial. America has dealt with this issue in many ways. Firing squads, hangings, electrocution and lethal injections have all been used during our nation’s history.
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down some death penalty statutes and upheld others. State legislatures have both enacted and removed death penalty statutes. Tennessee is presently one of the states using lethal injections as its chosen method of enforcing the death penalty.
Because of the cost and legal requirements of prosecuting a death penalty case, many district attorneys choose to not ask for the death penalty except in the most horrendous crimes. The use of life without parole statutes has been passed as an alternative to a protracted and expensive death penalty prosecution.
The United States Supreme Court has recently dealt with the issues of imposing the death penalty on mentally retarded defendants and juveniles.
The use of torture to extract confessions from terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has also come under Eighth Amendment scrutiny.
Proponents and opponents have debated the death penalty issue since the inception of our country. Public sentiment has vacillated both for and against this punishment. Each outbreak of violent crime calls for more individuals being put to death, while more peaceful periods of less terrible crimes give opponents of the death penalty new support for its elimination.
It is anticipated that the argument will continue.
For more information on the topics discussed, visit the firm’s website at www.summersandwyatt.com or call 423-265-2385. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.