/>At the time the Bill of Rights was written, the authors specifically sought
to ban such execution methods as burning at the stake, crucifixion and
breaking on the wheel. In modern times, the Supreme Court has decided cases
that redefine what the Founders meant. In Hudson v. McMillan (1992), the
court ruled that the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner
might constitute cruel and unusual punishment, even if a prisoner does not
suffer serious pain. But the actual infliction of physical pain or hardship
is not necessary for such a finding. As far back as 1958, the Supreme Court
ruled in Trop v. Dulles that the use of denationalization (the deprivation
of citizenship) is a punishment barred by the Eighth Amendment.
p />Aside from the period between 1967 and 1976, when capital punishment was
effectively suspended, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the
death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment, but that some
applications of it might. The Court declared the execution of the mentally
retarded to be cruel and unusual punishment and, thus, barred by the Eighth
Amendment (Atkins v. Virginia, 2002). In Roper v. Simmons (2005), the court
ruled it was cruel and unusual punishment to put to death anyone who was
under the age of 18 at the time they committed their crime.
I don't know how you define cruel and unusual in a lethal injection case.
Angel Nieves Diaz was said to have a physical condition that required more
drugs to kill him than if he had not had the condition. If those
administering the drugs had known about it and given him a double dose so he
might die within the "norms" of such executions, would that have been
constitutionally acceptable? Does this not get us into the same arbitrary
standards that are applied to the unborn? At first, the Supreme Court
imposed an arbitrary trimester standard, forbidding the state from
restricting a woman's decision in the first three months. But subsequent
rulings have resulted in abortion on demand, for any or no reason and at any
Will the same erosion of justice against convicted killers mimic the erosion
of rights for the unborn innocent? The arbitrary way in which we approach
anything of importance today would suggest it might.
To avoid this legal hair-splitting, why not return to an earlier and
acceptable method of execution that ensures justice is done and inflicts
minimal pain on the guilty: the firing squad.