The Eighth Amendment

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COR 100 – 4270

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Throughout American history many changes have occurred. However, throughout history The Bill of Rights has helped America have a strong constant foundation. James Madison created the Bill of Rights in 1788. They helped guide America through these changes but were never altered. Out of these ten amendments the eighth amendment has been upheld since it was created. The eighth amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” This means that when a person is arrested and being accused of a crime, the court are not allowed to set an unreasonable bail and are not allowed to impose harsh punishments. This amendment has been upheld throughout the years in social, economic and government situations.

The government in the United States has done everything they can to uphold the eighth amendment. They have gone as far as overturning a previous decision because it was not in agreement with the amendment. In 1989 Penry v. Lynaugh ruled that it was acceptable to execute mentally retarded individuals. The big issue was whether or not a mentally retarded individual possessed the mental and moral capability to be subjected to the death penalty. “A separate five-to-four majority struck down the Texas capital punishment statute under which Mr. Penry was sentenced. The Court held that the three-part test provided by the statute did not allow the sentencing jury to give full consideration to the mitigating evidence of Mr. Penry's mental retardation.” (Berg) Researchers found that if the jury had been able to review mitigating evidence, Penry would not have received the death penalty but rather life in prison. Therefore his sentence was considered cruel and unusual. Years later the Supreme Court reviewed this case in Atkins v. Virginia and declared it unconstitutional.

One major court case that was the turning point for the death penalty enforcement in...
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