23 Mar 2022


Cruel and Unusual Punishments

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Academic level: University

Paper type: Term Paper

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Since the beginning of society, human behaviour has remained to be explained by the social forces that take control. Be it negative or positive, the significance of social forces extend to explain the behaviour of man and the consequences of every situation that man engages in. Therefore, one can argue that human behaviour is propelled by a social force that operates within. Over the centuries, the institution of Law in the society has helped to create order in the society. Law dictates the mode of living, and the expected standards of behaviour that each and every individual is expected to adapt (Liebman, 2006, p. 46). The Law extends to explain and execute consequences to those who may go against it. An individual may be convicted to death if the person has been tried in court and convicted of committing a crime. Over the years, the sanction of sentence to death as a mode of punishment has raised interest to many scholars. 

The Eight Amendment states that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The death penalty is a mode of punishment that is widely debated through the globe. Special cases have led to the reasoning that, the death penalty should be practised as a mode of punishment. On the other hand, the society has identified death penalty as a cruel act that should be unconsidered by the society. The report attempts to assess death penalty and the significance of death penalty as the mode of punishment in the society. By analysing past cases resulting in the penalty, the writer is expected to explore on cases where the death penalty is constitutional. And also, explain if the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment in the modern day society. 

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During the 16th century determining whether an act was cruel and unusual was mainly done through assessing other similar cases, and identifying whether the case was similar. Cruel and Unusual punishment describes a mode of punishment that involves cruelty acts. As the society was maturing from the old ways of living, people saw the need to abolish certain punishments in honour of the ancestors of the land that we live in. But how does one measure a mode of punishment to be a cruel and unusual punishment? It is important to note that, the frequency that a crime has been punished through a death penalty is the first factor to consider. 

The Gregg cases lead to an amendment in the Supreme Court of states such as Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Louisiana. Furman argued that the jury would provide a good and better council of whether to institute the death penalty at different cases. Thereby the cases propelled the approval of the death penalty as a mode of punishment in the Supreme Court. Gregg v. Georgia or the July 2 cases present a situation in the U.S, where five cases were presented to the state of Georgia. It was just after the Furman v. Georgia case, where Furman established death penalty as the punishment back to the U.S Supreme Court. 

Five cases presented in different states presented a similar case, where the defendants were convicted to a death penalty in regards to the Furman guidelines. The defendants appealed for the court to consider the issue of death sentence as a cruel and unusual punishment in the court of law. It is important to note that Furman guidelines towards the sanction of the death penalty involved, capital punishments that were focused on the decision of a lone individual. Capital punishments had proved to provide doubt because, the decisions made and executed in a rational manner that did not support or provide pace towards better decision making by the court (Alice, 2007, p. 31).

Against the Law, the July 2 cases lead the court to go against the Constitution and address the notion of the Death penalty. It is important to note that the court addressed the matter in regards to better decision-making, and identifying whether a crime was punishable by the act. One can argue that the degree to which death penalty is cruel and unusual, is totally dependent on the type of crime. The dependency on the jury to come to a conclusion fits the ability of the court to make a decision. On the other hand, we can ignore the fact that committing the penalty act puts the modern society, in a position where cruelty activities are allowed. Regardless of the act being a punishment, due to the evolution of the human society, some acts should not be tolerated.

For a society that has adapted to the death sentence as a form of punishment through the centuries, the modern day society has exhibited much change in the reforms to punishments and cruel activities. In 1986 over 100 countries stopped the use of death penalties in ordinary cases. Decades, after we find over 100 countries, have stopped using the mode of punishment in their courts of law. Different nations have aired their reasons towards the abolishment of the death penalty act. It is important to note that, human rights argue that every individual has the right to live and dignity. Death penalty in some nations like Spain goes against the institution of human rights in the world.

In the Miller v. Alabama notion, the Supreme Court reviewed cases where 14 year old defendants were convicted to a death sentence without the possibility of a parole. This mode of punishment goes directly against the Eight Amendment. The 14 year old offenders sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, did not consider the decision of the jury. In addition life imprisonment without parole is similar to the death penalty. It is important to note that juveniles express the largest capacity to reform. Graham argues that they are less deserving of some mode punishment. In most cases there exist the gap between juvenile and adulthood, children lack a sense of maturity and a sense of responsibility as well. This would explain the exhibited recklessness and impulsivity expressed by children. On the other a child’s vulnerability to outside pressure, tends to affect the child’s character since it is not well built. 

The cases bring to the surface the campaign on the circumstances where, death penalty has been found to be unconstitutional and against the human rights. Death penalty on a juvenile case shows a lack of protection to the younger generation. The constitutional has provided special rights to individuals who are under age, in regards to facing law and punishment for offences committed. It is thereby unconstitutional for the court to subject children to death penalties, regardless of the decision by the jury (Alice, 2007, p. 38). A death penalty to pregnant women has been abolished in all the states of America. In the modern day it has been deemed unconstitutional for any pregnant woman to be sentenced to death regardless of the offence committed.

In his American book Peculiar Institution, David Garland attempts to explain the reason behind the lag in the United States abolishing the death penalty. The professor of Law and Sociology offers an insight on the issue of death penalty in the Supreme Court and society of America. Despite the campaigns to abolish the act as a form of punishment, the writer identifies that Death penalty is an element that the American people have internalised to be a form of social institution that people turn a blind eye. Garland evaluates the effort that other elite people from other nations have put in abolishing the act, in contrasts to the American society. He defines the American Elites as unable and unwilling to end the sanction of death penalties in the criminal courts of law. 


Over the years the campaign against the use of death penalties in criminal courts, has led to the fact that the abolition of the act in the society rests with the public. This shows a link between the political and cultural institutions of a society. A society must be able to address both its political and cultural sanctions against, the institute of death sentence as a method of punishment. On the other hand it is important to understand that some cases have provided the need for use of Death penalty as a preferable mode of punishment. The degree to whether death penalty is a cruel and unusual form of punishment remains to be dependent on the type of offence committed and the evaluation of the public on the matter. But it is important to note that, regardless of a situation being constitutional or un-constitutional. The death penalty act goes against all rights reserved for the Human rights in the modern day society.



Alice, B. (2007). Litigating Mortality. Greenwood: Greenwood Publishing. Liebman, J. S. (2006). The Supreme court and Capital Punishment. Columbia: Columbia Law Review.

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