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The “cruel and unusual” clause in the eighth amendment states that “cruel and unusual punishment” such as torture or lingering death can not be inflicted on anyone as a form of execution. It is however permissible under the 8th Amendment to execute a convict by means of hanging, shooting, electrocution, and lethal gas.
There is still confusion about what is actually constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment.” There have been several court cases of interest that have challenged and redefined this concept. In Louisiana ex. Rel. Francis v. Resweber, a convicted murdered was subject to a botched execution, and subsequently argued that a second attempt at execution would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment constituting cruel and unusual punishment. While the Supreme Court rejected this argument, stating that the eighth amendment applies to “cruelty inherent in the method of punishment.” I found it interesting that in the Case of Trop v. Dulles the Supreme Court ruled that loss of citizenship did constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Courts position was that to revoke citizenship would be “to subject the individual to a fate forbidden by the principles of civilized treatment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.”
I do not consider the death penalty to be cruel and unusual punishment for persons convicted of one or more murders. For instance, my example of a convicted criminal deserving of the death penalty is Andrea Yates. I believe the only adequate justice for the murder of her five children is that she be given the death penalty. What she did to those children was certainly cruel and unusual and since she was given a fair trial by a jury of her peers and found guilty she be subject to death due to the heinous nature of the multiple homicides she committed. To spite my personal disdain for her actions under the law she and persons like her are still entitled to a fair trail (which she already had), as well as the appeals process, but I feel strongly that the death penalty should be used in place of life sentencing.
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