He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: Federalism and the Death Penalty
27 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 3, 2013
In a line of landmark cases beginning with Coker v. Georgia and ending, presently, with Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court has carved out categorical Eighth Amendment exceptions following its evolving standards of decency analysis. Though the analysis, as touted by the Court, is two-fold, it has, essentially, evolved itself into a one-prong standard. The Court, that is, uses the subjective judgments of the five Justice majority to compromise the objective evidence of support for a particular sanction.
This article argues that the Court has ignored its original intent and what the words "evolving standards of decency" should mean. Nowhere does the Court state in Trop v. Dulles, the case that announced the standard, that the standard should be comprised of the Supreme Court Justices' opinion of what are the evolving standards of decency.
Part I of this article tracks the evolution of the evolving standards of decency analysis used by the Court to carve out categorical Eighth Amendment exceptions. Part II of this article argues that there are problems with the evolving standards of decency analysis used to carve out categorical Eighth Amendment exceptions, in that, it serves as a vehicle for the five Justice majority to compromise the objective indicia. Part III of this article proposes a solution to the problem, in which, there will be a wholly objective standard. Finally, Part IV of this article argues that the proposed standard is more advantageous than the current evolving standards of decency analysis and truer to the intent of the standard.
Keywords: Criminal Procedure, Sentencing, Eighth Amendment, Evolving Standards of Decency, Federalism
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