Capital Punishment Issues in the U.S. Supreme Court
II. The 8th Amendment as a Source of Substantive Law
a. Substantive Challenges to the Use of the Death Penalty for Certain Crimes or Against Certain Classes of Defendants:
- No Death Penalty for Rape of an Adult Woman That Does Not Result in Death – Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584 (1977) [FindLaw] [Lexis].
- No Death Penalty for Non-Triggerman Felony Murderers Who Lack Personal for Felony-Murderers Who Are “Major Participants” in the Felony, and Who Act With “Reckless Disregard” for the Value of Human Life – Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982) [FindLaw]
[Lexis]; Cabana v. Bullock, 474 U.S. 376 (1986) [FindLaw] [Lexis]; Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987) [FindLaw] [Lexis].
- No Death Penalty for a defendant who is insane at the time of execution
Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986) [FindLaw] (must be aware of “the punishment [he is] about suffer and why [he is] to suffer it”). In Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007) [FindLaw], the U.S. Supreme Court held Ford at a minimum requires a defendant have an opportunity to present his own evidence and respond to the state’s evidence of competency. It also held that merely being aware of one’s crimes and that one may be executed is not sufficient if the defendant’s “delusions prevent him from comprehending the meaning and purpose of the punishment …” (In Panetti, for instance, he understood he had been sentenced to death for killing his in-laws, but because of severe schizophrenia believed the real reason for his pending execution was that Satan, in a conspiracy with the state of Texas, was trying to prevent him from preaching the Gospels).
- No Death Penalty for Juveniles Who Kill Before the Age of 18 – Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815 (1988) [FindLaw] [Lexis]; Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989) [FindLaw] [Lexis]; Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005) [FindLaw] [Lexis].
- No Death Penalty for Mentally Retarded Defendants – Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989)
[FindLaw] [Lexis]; Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) [FindLaw] [Lexis].
b.Lethal Injection Does Not Constitute Cruel and Unusual Punishment:
Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008) [FindLaw] The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Kentucky’s protocol for administering lethal injections did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. While the U.S. Supreme Court left open future challenges, it stated that they could not succeed “unless the condemned prisoner establishes that the state’s lethal injection protocol creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain. He must show that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives.”
< BACK | NEXT >