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Amendments in the United States Constitution

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The United States’ constitution has been amended 27 times each involving a set of cases which contribute to the amendment. This paper aims to discuss second and eighth amendments and two cases in each amendment.

The second amendment is a part of United States bill of rights that protects a right to keep and bear arms Constitution of the United States, Analysis and Interpretation (2002). It was adopted on December 15, 1791 Wikipedia (n.d). There are various versions of the text of second amendment. One as passed by the congress is: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Wikipedia (n.d). The initial proposed passage relating to arms was: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”Annals of congress (1789-1824).

On July, Madison proposed a select committee to be selected to report to it. The house voted in favor of his motion, and the Bill entered committee for review. The committee returned to the house with another version on July 28. On august 17, the published version was: A well regulated militia composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms. This amendment was debated and modified during house sessions in the late august of 1789. The debate was about the risk of mal-administration of the government using religiously scrupulous clause to destroy the militia. On august 24 the following clause was sent to the U.S senate and on 25th it was entered into the senate journal:

 

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.

On 4th September, the senate voted to change the language of this amendment to:

“A well regulated militia, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people    to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The house voted on 21st September, 1789 to accept the changes made by the senate and the amendment was entered in the house journal.

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The two cases discussed below are for the second amendment. United States versus Miller. It involved a criminal prosecution under the National Firearms act of 1934 (NFA). NFA required some firearms to be registered with the miscellaneous tax unit with a $200 tax paid at the time of registration and again if the firearm is ever sold. On 30th march, 1939 the Supreme Court heard the case. During this case the defendants and their legal counsel did not appear dead in court. Miller was found shot to death in April. On May 15, 1939 the Supreme Court declared that no conflict between NFA and the second amendment had been established.

A case of United States versus Cruikshank, on 13th April 1873, armed white militia attacked republican freed men who had gathered at the Colfax to protect the Louisiana courthouse from a democratic takeover. The Supreme Court ruled on a range of issues and found the indictment faulty. It overturned the convictions of two defendants in the case. The Court did not incorporate the Bill of Rights to the states and found that the First Amendment right to assembly "was not intended to limit the powers of the State governments in respect to their own citizens" and that the Second Amendment "has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government."

 The eighth amendment is part of the United States Bill of rights prohibiting the federal government from imposing excessive bail, fines or cruel and unusual punishments. As per the Supreme Court, this amendment forbids some punishments entirely and some that are excessive when compared to the crime, or compared to the competence of the perpetrator.

In relation to the eighth amendment we will focus on cases of State of Louisiana ex rel. Francis versus Resweber and another by William Henry Furman versus State of Georgia.      

The case of William Henry Furman versus State of Georgia holds that the arbitrary and inconsistent imposition of the death penalty violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.          As per the United States report (1972), in this case was a United States Supreme Court decision that ruled on the requirement for a degree of consistency application of death penalty.

The victim woke in the middle of the night only to find Furman burgling his house and during the trial he said that he was trying to escape only to accidentally firing the weapon he was carrying killing the victim which contradicted with his earlier statement to the police that he had turned and blindly fired as shot while he was fleeing. Since the shooting occurred during a commission of felony, he was entitled to a death penalty. He was finally sentenced to death but the punishment was never carried out this was because the panel of judges chosen did not join agree in opinions.

As per Wikipedia, there were concurrencies and dissents in the opinions of the judges. The concurrencies are: justices Byron White and William Douglas showed similar concerns about the death sentences in the existing laws. Justices Brennan and Marshall saw death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment that was proscribed by the eighth amendment as incompatible with evolving standards of decency of a contemporary society.

 

The dissents includes: chief justice Burger and Justices Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist argued that capital punishment is regarded appropriate under Anglo-American legal tradition for serious crimes.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia the case of Francis versus Resweber holds that attempting a second electrocution after the first one fails does not violate the eighth amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, nor does it constitute a second imposition of punishment in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

It is the case in which the United State Supreme Court was asked if imposing a capital punishment a second time was a violation of the United States constitution. This was after it had failed to execute Willie Francis in 1946. This raised different opinions amongst the justices. The ones who concurred with the court were Justice Stanley Forman Reed, which three other justices (Chief Justice Vinson and Associate Justices Hugo Black, Robert H. Jackson) joined, and with which Justice Felix Frankfurter agreed that re- executing Francis was not a cruel and unusual punishment.

There was however another group of justices who dissented they are: Justice Harold Burton, Justice William O. Douglas, Justice Frank Murphy, and Justice Wiley Rutledge asked how many deliberate and intentional reapplications of electric current it takes to produce a cruel, unusual and unconstitutional punishment. They argued that two separated application would be cruel and unusual and should be prohibited.

Each case discussed above describes each amendment which is part of Bill of rights of the United States constitution.

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