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Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers
The Eighth Amendment Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. © Street Law, Inc. 2012
The Eighth Amendment and Cruel and Unusual Punishment The punishment is excessive for all similarly situated defendants (categorical exclusions) The punishment is excessive for this defendant (given his particular crime) Two general classes of Supreme Court cases: © Street Law, Inc. 2012
The punishment is excessive for this defendant: Consider all circumstances of the case to determine whether the sentence is unconstitutionally excessive for the crime committed For example: –Life without parole for a defendants seventh non- violent felony, passing a worthless check is not allowed (Solem v. Helm (1983)) BUT, it is usually very difficult to show disproportionality and some justices wont even consider it as a factor For example: –Life without parole for the possession of 650 grams of cocaine with no prior felony convictions is allowed (Harmelin v. Michigan (1991)) © Street Law, Inc. 2012
The punishment is excessive for all similarly situated defendants (categorical exclusion): When crafting a categorical exclusion, the Court engages in a two-part test: –Is there a national consensus against this kind of punishment? The [Eighth] Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society. Earl Warren, Trop v. Dulles (1958) –Does the punishment violate the Constitution given the Courts precedents and interpretation of the Eighth Amendments text, history, meaning, and purpose? © Street Law, Inc. 2012
Categorical Exclusions of the Eighth Amendment Extreme punishment has been prohibited based on… The crime committed: No executions for non-homicide crime (Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008)) A characteristic of the offender: No executions if under age 18 at time of offense (Roper v. Simmons (2005)) No executions if low intellectual functioning (Atkins v. Virginia (2002)) A combination of both: No life without parole for non-homicide crime if under 18 at time of offense (Graham v. Florida (2010)) © Street Law, Inc. 2012
Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers
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