I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, 1787
- Amendment VII- In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
- Amendment VIII-Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
- This Amendment may be argued to be in violation today in the way our justice system operates. First, it must be recognized that at the time this was written punishments were usually severe and cruel. However, many today could argue something similar. One argument I have heard is that while some nations’ punishments seem cruel and barbaric by flogging someone in public, would it not be more humane to administer this temporary punishment to criminals rather than locking them up in prison for an extended period of time? If someone, especially a first time offender, commits a crime (except in the case of murder) they can be locked up for five to fifty years living in horrible conditions, with other criminals, away from their families while being unable to work and provide for them. So prison in most cases can be a punishment not only for the criminal but also for their families. And the punishment doesn’t stop at the end of their sentence but continues after they are released. They must also endure hardships after they are released, then they have significant debts that they must rectify while trying to find a job to earn money for living expenses, all while being branded a former convict. Minimum sentencing has also been criticized in this matter. It is also surprising to find out how many are locked up that are innocent. Surely this is not the majority, but consider that close to ten percent of those locked up in our overcrowded prison system are innocent of the crime. (There is a 4.1% proven rate, but it this deals with only those who have been exonerated based on appeals through lawyers for death row inmates) Now wouldn’t an innocent man rather suffer through a temporary flogging then go to prison for ten to twenty years? Plea deals have become a way to ensure a conviction for the prosecutors, but does that mean the person taking the plea deal is guilty? Consider that a person may be arrested and because the way our justice system currently operates they are charged with a number of crimes for one criminal act. This places their time in prison, for example, to thirty to forty years. They are offered a plea deal that would reduce this sentence to five years or less. Their option is to go to trial, which is a somewhat lengthy process in itself, then they must risk being sentenced the forty years for their accumulation of charges based on one action. Most innocent people would be afraid to fight this (not including attorney fees for a lengthy drawn out process) as their risk is an exceptional amount of time locked up in our extremely overcrowded prisons and away from their spouses, parents, and children. Thus, the innocent person decides to go to prison for a few years rather than a few decades. This process seems cruel and unusual even for those who are guilty.
- Amendment IX- The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
- Amendment X- The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.