8th Amendment Essay

Submitted By sammyk992
Words: 1160
Pages: 5

Eighth Amendment The United States Bill of Rights is an important document of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These amendments were ratified on the fifteenth of December in 1971 and guarantee the citizens of the United States many personal freedoms and also ensures that the government’s control and power is limited so that some power is given to the public. The ten amendments of the Bill of Rights include: freedom of speech, press, religion and petition, the right to keep and bear arms, conditions for quarters of soldiers, the right of search and seizure regulated, provisions concerning prosecution, right to a speedy trial, witnesses, the right to a trial by jury, excessive bail and cruel punishment, rule of construction of Constitution, and the rights of the states under Constitution. All of the amendments are significant in their own way but the amendment I am going to focus on is the eighth amendment. The eighth amendment is pertinent because it guarantees the right to be exempt from excessive fines, bail and cruel and unusual punishments. The eighth amendment originates from the British Magna Carta of 1215, a document that prohibits rulers from violating the rights of the people and the English Bill of Rights. According to the Magna Carta, "A free man shall not be [fined] for a small offense unless according to the measure of the offense, and for a great offense he shall be [fined] according to the greatness of the offense." The main idea behind this amendment is that the punishment given to a criminal should fit the crime that was inflicted. The main historical event that led to the adoption of this amendment was the infamous case of Titus Oates. Oates was tried in court for various acts of perjury, which led to multiple executions of people who had been unjustly accused by Oates. Due to this act, the punishments Oates received “included imprisonment and an annual ordeal which included being confined in a pillory for two days and one day of being whipped while tied to a moving cart.” The pillory is a device intended for public humiliation where the person's head and hands are secured in a wooden frame, which is usually placed in a public place where passersby can taunt them and throw garbage at them. Although the pillory and whipping were both normal and common punishments for that time, many people deemed Oates’s punishment as offensive and excessive due to the fact that this punishment was repetitive and given over and over again every single year. This was the case that directly led this phrase to be in the English Bill of Rights and therefore the United States Bill of Rights as the eighth amendment is taken word for word from the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Basically, the founding father wanted to prohibit the government from inflicting abusive fines or punishment on anyone especially without reason. Whenever the Supreme Court interprets a certain amendment of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution in general, they usually analyze a particular case in the viewpoint of those who had originally enacted it and trying to determine how the Framers of the original Constitution would have considered it to mean. As soon as the Supreme Court has figured out the original intent, it is extremely rare for the Supreme Court to differ from that meaning because it is something that is meant to be stable and long lived. However this is not exactly the case when it comes to the interpretation of the eighth amendment and especially the clause against cruel and unusual punishments. In this particular case, the Supreme Court understands that the standards and norms of the society are constantly changing and evolving as the years go by. Something that may have been considered as constitutionally acceptable at one point of time in history may be considered as an unusual and cruel punishment in the future years. For example, in the past it was considered a normal and acceptable punishment to execute