Eighth Amendment research papers focus on the United States Constitution which specifies that no punishment for a crime may be "cruel and unusual". Since the ratification of this amendment there has existed extensive debate regarding what was considered, "cruel and unusual" by Americans in relation to the death penalty. This is not the only issue that has concerned United States citizens when considering the debate over capital punishment. Many factors have divided the national opinion repeatedly such as:
- Should minors be given special protection under the eighth amendment?
- What types of punishments are cruel and unusual?
- What is considered "excessive" in relation to fines or punishment?
Eighth Amendment - Death Penalty
A constitutional problem with the death penalty is determining what is "cruel and unusual punishment" which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Many believe that capital punishment per se is cruel and unusual. The Supreme Court, as a non-partisan, non-elected body, has a duty to disregard public opinion and rule on the merits of the statute. Unfortunately, interpretations of cruel and unusual punishment also vary among justices. Therefore, determining whether a statute violates the Eighth Amendment is subject to varying interpretations.
Eighth Amendment And Children
A Supreme Court case dealt with the issue of executing people who committed their crimes before they reached the age of eighteen. In the March 1, 2005 case of Roper v. Simmons (No. 03-633), the Supreme Court ruled that executing individuals for crimes committed under the age of eighteen violated their Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. In the decision the Court stated juveniles cannot be held to the same standards as adults because they lack the mental maturity of adults and are easily swayed by peer pressure.The decision in Roper v. Simmons was especially controversial in that it protects teenagers who commit especially heinous crimes as well as teenage terrorist who might kills hundreds or thousands of people with one terrorist act. Further, critics of the decision state that at no time has the Eighth Amendment been interpreted in such a way. However, the justices stated changing times called for changing attitudes, "[W]e have established the propriety and affirmed the necessity of referring to the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society to determine which punishments are so disproportionate as to be cruel and unusual".