The Eighth Amendment
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Today, our interest in “cruel and unusual punishment” centers on the death penalty. But, as made clear in this book, it has been viewed with different perspective in different ages. Medieval Christians saw the death penalty as a means of obtaining God’s grace and treated execution with reverence whereas earlier, and later generations saw it as a correction to vice and deterrent to others. Rarely has it been seen as retribution. And although the Framers’ wording, with a one word exception, is copied from the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the Framers were working with a different premise – an evolving notion of crime, proportionality and punishment.
In this book, Robert McWhirter traces the complicated history that led to the juxtaposition of “cruel” and “punishment” in the Eighth Amendment from early Judaic law to the present day.
This lively account is written for the interested citizen, as well as the civics student. Along the way there are surprising, and interesting, discursions into how the events and personalities surrounding the Eighth Amendment have appeared in literature, film, sports and popular culture.
The book is part of a collection chronicling the origins, history, and interpretation, of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution – the Bill of Rights.
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About the Author
Robert McWhirter is an acknowledged authority on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on which he has written and lectured widely both to academic and legal audiences as well as civic institutions. His earlier work was published by the American Bar Association. He appears regularly on Arizona Public Television’s Horizon program explaining the legality and history surrounding the challenges to, and interpretation of, the Constitution.
Robert also specializes in criminal law on which he has published widely. He presently practices as a criminal defense lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona.
Table of Contents
“Cruel and Unusual” from Lex Talionis; Double Jeopardy and Proportionality; A History of Death; A Classical Death; Death in a Time of God’s Mercy; King’s Death; The English Bill of Rights; “Cruel and Unusual” as a Pair