Monday, May 15, 2023

#135 / Ron DeSantis Is Taking On The Eighth


The title of my blog posting today refers to the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Click the link if you'd like to refresh your recollection of what the Eighth Amendent provides. Most importantly, the Eighth Amendment prohibits the United States Government (and now state governments, too) from imposing "cruel and unusual" punishments on any criminal offender. 

If your son or daughter goes into Target and shoplifts, it is the Eighth Amendment that makes sure that the government doesn't cut off your child's hand, in order to punish this behavior. The United States Supreme Court has also held, definitively, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, that imposing the death penalty on a criminal offender, when the crime does not intentionally cause the victim’s death, violates the Eighth Amendment.
Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida (pictured above), doesn't think that this is the way things ought to go. He is backing a piece of legislation that would directly challenge the decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, and would, therefore, permit (and perhaps even encourage) the United States Supreme Court to broaden the scope of the death penalty. 

Clicking this link will take you to a news story about this effort, which was published in the online magazine, Slate. As the article says: 

When asked late last month if the bill is unconstitutional, Rep. Baker [a Florida legislator] responded that “fifteen years of wrongly decided case law is not persuasive” to her. She previously argued that Kennedy is ripe for reconsideration because the majority’s decision was not “based on any law” and did not point to any statute or constitutional provision for its basis but was, instead, based on the majority’s “independent judgment.” That statement is far from accurate. As testimony for the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers clarified at the committee hearing, the majority decision in Kennedy was grounded in the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. 
Of course, the legislators’ blatant disregard for precedent undermines the bedrock of our court system—the theory of stare decisis. Worse, legislation attacking precedent undermines our system of government, which is grounded on a separation of powers. When state Rep. Michael Gottlieb asked in a committee hearing late last month if this bill poses separation of powers issues, Rep. Baker said no, though offered no support for her position. Yet, these efforts deliberately undercut the long-standing work of the judiciary in an effort to achieve political gain
I believe that the concerns outlined in the article, and presented in the quotation, above, are absolutely valid. When unelected members of the Supreme Court start acting like a Legislature, this is an attack on the "bedrock" of our court system. 

I do have another point I'd like readers to consider, as well. Is it actually ever appropriate to react to bad behavior by killing the offender?

I am suggesting, "No." 

If you are thinking, "Yes," then think again about that shoplifting son or daughter of yours. There is one way to make sure, with absolute certainty, that your kids won't ever violate the law again, once they have violated it once.

Kill 'em if they do!

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