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The Eighth Amendment - Cruel and Unusual Punishment; Who Says It Is Cruel or Unusual?

Updated on August 20, 2013

The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution states; “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted." Cruel and unusual punishment is to be that of which is considered “unacceptable due to the suffering, pain, or humiliation it inflicts on the person subjected to it”. Let us note that the person subjected to it is the criminal. The criminal is one who broke the law and was protected already by the 6th Amendment; the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury. If someone commits a crime and is given the opportunity for a fair trial and as a result, is convicted of that crime, then I purpose, depending on the nature of the crime, cruel or unusual punishment may be justified and/deserved.

This is okay... sometimes

Lethal Injection... even better

A little outdated?

The 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution was adopted in 1791, more than two centuries ago. Some 200 years ago common forms of cruel and unusual punishments included but were not limited to; crucifixion, boiling to death, impalement, crushing, stoning, execution by burning, dismemberment, and disembowelment. Much of these punishments are extreme and old fashioned. The very same Constitution does not consider death, by way of the death penalty, a form of cruel or unusual punishment but is rather a responsibility and ultimately the decision of individual states. Why in some cases is taking the life of a convicted criminal deemed appropriate, fitting or necessary but cruel or otherwise unusual punishments that may cause suffering, pain or humiliation of that same convicted criminal, considered unacceptable? At what point is pain, suffering or humiliation of a convicted criminal, one who had no regard for the law, a concern of the American public? How many of these same convicted criminals had any concern for the pain, suffering of humiliation of their victim(s)? In my opinion, these people gave up their rights for Constitutional protections when they violated the Constitution.

What about her?

Caylee Anthony, the beautiful daughter and victim to mother/monster Casey Anthony.
Caylee Anthony, the beautiful daughter and victim to mother/monster Casey Anthony.

Take pity on the prisoner?

I don't believe everyone should be subjected to or are deserving of cruel and/or unusual punishment, but certainly some are worthy. What does it say for the American public who finds pity on a criminal that kidnaps rapes, abuses, tortures or takes the life of another human being? What does it say about the American public that finds pity on a criminal that has ruined or murdered a child? I cannot find myself sympathizing with any person that is able to take a child hostage, stripping them from their safe, comfortable environment and inflicting sexual abuse, pain or any other kind of torture on them. I cannot find any sympathy for a person that can take the life of a child and the more violent the manner in which the crime is committed the more I find it acceptable to utilize cruel or unusual punishment.

Why not?

Hammurabi's Code

An "eye for an eye", why does the United States Constitution not find this thought process appropriate? Punishment of equal value to that of what a victim endured on behalf of the criminal seems to fit accordingly. If one human being is willing to inflict irreversible damage or death to another human being then why are they not deserving of the same in return? Is a criminal more valuable than his victim? I will not say that a life in prison is necessarily enjoyable or easy, nor will I say that death by way of the death penality is one's first option, but I will say that they are a hell of a consolation.

One Good Reason...

This below video and Casey Anthony case, is not the motivation or inspiration behind me or my thoughts, but it is a perfect example of why I think there are occasions that call for cruel and/or unusual punishment. Watch the video and look at pictures of a beautiful child who was not afforded the opportunity to continue living her life and a mother who went out partying and clubbing for days while her daughter's body was decomposing. If you don't shed a tear, get goose bumps or angered, then I'll delete the entire article and keep my opinion to myself.

Caylee's Song

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Is there ever a circumstance that should warrant cruel or unusual punishment?

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    • Madelline profile image

      madelline MSW 2 years ago from Vancouver, BC

      Sarah, excellent comment. US is not in the company of western democracies concerning the DP. Re Anthony trial, I don't understand how a witness or any person related to the victim can be accused of a crime by the defence attorney. It becomes a trial within a trial. The defendant's counsel should be required to sufficiently demonstrate the crime to press charges, before using that information as a defence argument. It looks like CA got off because there was not quite enough evidence linking her directly to the crime, good circumstantial evidence, good medical evidence, but what exactly happened, who was involved, how was it done. That seemed to leave enough reasonable doubt.

    • SarahJClemens profile image

      Sarah Clemens 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      A society is defined by how it treats it's criminals, and fortunately, we do not get to cherry-pick or modify the Amendments of the Constitution as we choose. You realize that the United States is one of the few civilized nations in the world that still practices capital punishment and is under tremendous pressure from other countries to cease those practices. We are even finding difficulty in purchasing the chemicals that are used in lethal injection because our suppliers are overseas and no longer want their supplies used in the death penalty. We are moving into a period where the Eighth Amendment is becoming more scrutinized, not where we should ignore it.

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
      Author

      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      ib radmasters,

      Ahhh! That's a scary thought and one that many probably haven't stopped to realize. Jurors go home at the end of the day with no real consequences for their verdicts. Guilty or not guilty; they still sleep at night.

      Thank you and you're welcome.

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      Canuhearmescream

      Back at you.

      It is interesting to say the least, that the only people that are part of the trial that aren't getting paid, are the defendant and jurors.

      Thanks for the hospitality

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 4 years ago from Earth

      Unfortunately, I'm all natural; sue me! Ha!

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
      Author

      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      I've been thinking about getting one.

      Did you take your medication this morning pumpkin?

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
      Author

      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      Insane Mundane,

      Money is thrown around in large quantities, irresponsibly, while other areas that are in desperate need of funding continue to be neglected. That’s the way it is and probably always will be. Good thing it’s not my money their throwing around, oh wait, it is. Good thing they fix the roads with my taxes, oh wait, they don’t… that reminds me, I need a new struts.

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
      Author

      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      Ib radmasters,

      I agree completely with the justice system and the jury process in particular. These are random people, not necessarily from the same walks of life and they may not be educated in any area of issues at hand. Jurors are everyday people and not necessarily equipped to appropriately determine whether or not someone should be convicted of a crime.

      A judge involved with the Casey Anthony case spoke very publicly about his thoughts on her guilt and he stated that we have a flawed juror system and that they have a difficult time understanding the difference between “reasonable doubt” and confusion of case details; being confused about the details shouldn’t mean “I can’t convict because I have doubts”. These people are misinformed and undereducated about how the law and trials are intended to work.

      Sometimes there is nothing more to a case than only circumstantial evidence and though I think that someone can and should be found guilty in many cases from nothing more than circumstantial evidence, I don’t think I could support death or “cruel and unusual” punishment in that situation. I would want to make certain that a person has committed the crime with strong, tangible proof before I would seek anything above incarceration.

      Convicting an innocent person of a crime could be as devastating as the murder of any victim and I would fight as hard to keep the innocent free as I would to seek stricter punishments for the real criminals. I hope at the end of the day we are convicting more criminals than we are letting slip through our fingers.

      You brought up a good point and there is obviously a lot more to the death penalty or punishment than simply being emotional about it. As far as money goes, I think the government already spends billions foolishly and maybe we need to reevaluate our priorities. The criminal justice system or at least jails and prisons are a joke and I don’t know if any amount of money is going to improve them. I’ve seen millions of dollars spent to improve the technologies in prisons but are they serving their purpose? Incarceration is supposed to rehabilitate criminals and probably more time than not, exposure to other and sometimes more violent criminals and sitting caged with nothing but time to think about the next plot, hardens them more. I would guess that less people come out of prison a new person than those that don’t. Awesome contribution, thank you!

      “If the glove don’t fit you must acquit”

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
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      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      Gcrhoads64,

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we were a civilized society? Unfortunately criminals have a big part in preventing that. Okay, maybe mutilation and torture are a bit much, but we could pants them and scream Thief! Thief! Thief! ;-)

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 4 years ago from Earth

      @Radmasters: Maybe the wild west had the best judicial system of all...

      Any common idiot knows about the money aspects involved along with the corruption; duh!

      The silly, unfair welfare program ain't much different than feeding a criminal in prison, a lot of times; yay!

    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 4 years ago from Southern California

      Cantuhearmescream

      I liked the hub, and it had great background information.

      The problem with the United States death penalty, and the 8th Amendment is that the legal system not a and justice for system. Maybe it never was, but it isn't working that way today.

      The jury system may have seemed like a great idea in the beginning and the carryover from the British system, but over time it became less impartial.

      The jury pools are not the peers of the defendants being tried in court, they are people that wanted jury duty, or couldn't get out of jury duty.

      Even though the jury is only the Trier of Fact in a trial, it doesn't mean that they have to be ignorant of the law.

      The jury selection for a trial is now, at least in the high profile cases, a scientific human specialist for jury selection. This is even better than counting cards in blackjack. These specialists are expensive but they can be pretty accurate on what they expect a juror that is selected, or rejected would have done to their clients case.

      Juries don't have a chance at understanding the level of proof for a criminal trial. That proof is something beyond a reasonable doubt. If you think that the 8th amendment is difficult to apply, then it is easy compared to reasonable doubt.

      The biggest problem in finding for the death penalty is that today Circumstantial Evidence can be use quite skillfully by the prosecution to make their view of the evidence better than that of the defense.

      Circumstantial evidence alone is really just a story of what was possible based on the evidence. There is no real use of the facts, like how, when and where of the crime. An example was the OJ Simpson case, there was no physical evidence or eye witnesses that tied him into the murder of his ex wife. Yet, the prosecution loaded with circumstantial evidence was doing pretty good, even with all the procedural violations of chain of evidence. Like the LA detective that carried around a blood sample of OJ into OJs house.

      My point is not whether OJ was innocent or guilty, but that the process using circumstantial evidence can find the wrong person guilty, even with the sentence of death.

      The criminal legal system was predicated on the desire to protect the innocent even if it meant that some of the guilty might go free.

      With all of the legal processes involved in actually doing the death sentence decades can fly by. It is very costly for the government to implement the death penalty because of the appeal proceess.

      The death penalty is not a real good deterrent as an example for others, so it would probably be a better idea to not have it. Use the money that would be saved to improve the criminal justice system.

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 4 years ago from North Dakota

      I used to work in retail and thought that chopping off a shoplifter's right hand would e a big deterrent to stealing. But we are a supposedly "civilized" society, and shouldn't use mutilation and torture for revenge. I am all for public humiliation, though.

      Good, thought provoking hub. ++

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
      Author

      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      Alberic O,

      You can't get any more solid evidence than DNA. As much as I am for stricter punishments for horrendous crimes, I am as much concerned for those wrongly imprisoned or executed; the DNA is a great advacement.

      I agree, 3 times is 3 too many and I would have a very hard time defending that criminal. Repeat offenders; why do we give them the opportunity to offend again?

      Thank you for your comments

    • Alberic O profile image

      Alberic O 4 years ago from Any Clime, Any Place

      Texas has recently passed a law requiring solid DNA evidence before considering putting a person to death. Perhaps other states and the Federal government will follow. Once you lower the odds of the innocent being put to death, it'll be easier to pursue punishments.

      I also propose a 3 strike policy on people convicted of assault, aggravated assault, murder, armed robbery, rape, and assault with a deadly weapon. After 3 convictions of these offenses, you get the death penalty. This is fair for both the accused and the public. The vast majority of violent crime are caused by repeated offenders who are in and out of jail.

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
      Author

      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      No, what I want for our country is justice and fear or appropriate punishment for horrendous acts of violence on innocent people.

    • profile image

      Deborah Rosen 4 years ago

      You do realize that "an eye for an eye" is the basis of much of sharia law (at least as it relates to crime), right? So you're proposing sharia law for our country? Let me know how that works out for you. :)

    • Cantuhearmescream profile image
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      Cat 4 years ago from New York

      Insane Mundane,

      Blah! is right! Law suits and "human rights" will always protect the bad guys and fail the good guys.

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 4 years ago from Earth

      Yeah, sort of like now, if you tackle and pin down a thief in the parking lot for stealing in the store, somehow you are the bad guy and violated "their rights," etc. At times, it seems that the criminals have more rights than the good people; blah!