Why Capital Punishment Violates the Constitutional Law of the United States
Michael J. Perry
Emory University School of Law
October 17, 2013
Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-259
I explain in this paper why we are warranted in concluding that capital punishment — punishing a criminal by killing him — is both "cruel" and "unusual" within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on "cruel and unusual punishments" and therefore violates the constitutional law of the United States. In setting the stage for that explanation, I discuss the internationally recognized human right not to be subjected to any punishment (or other treatment) that is "cruel, inhuman or degrading.". When I turn to the question of the original understanding of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment, I discuss the important work of John Stinneford, explaining why I concur in Stinneford’s conclusion about the original understanding of "cruel" but dissent from his conclusion about the original understanding of "unusual."
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 18, 2013
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