The United States Constitution and the Death Penalty
The Eighth Amendment (Amendment VIII) to the United States Constitution is the of the United States Bill of Rights which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments. The question of whether death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishments and thereby violates the provisions contained in the Eighth Amendment is therefore often debated.
Some states have passed laws imposing mandatory death penalties in certain cases. The Supreme Court found these laws to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, in the murder case of Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976), because these laws remove discretion from the trial judge to make an individualized determination in each case.In the case of Furman v. Georgia, it was held that the death penalty, at least as administered, did violate the Eighth Amendment.