8th Amendment – Cruel and Unusual Punishments

  • Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U. S. 130 (1879): execution by firing squad (oldest method-of-execution case)
  • In re Kemmler, 136 U. S. 436, 447 (1890): execution by electrocution (“new” and therefore “unusual” but not “cruel”)
  • Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986): 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment precludes executing a prisoner who has lost his sanity after sentencing.
  • Hill McDonough, 547 U. S. 573 (2006): re. traditional pleading requirements for § 1983 actions—prisoner does not have to identify alternative method.
  • Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 958-959 (2007): State may not execute prisoner whose “mental state is so distorted by a mental illness” that he lacks a “rational understanding” of “the State’s rationale for [his] execution.”
  • Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 52 (2008): “a State’s refusal to alter its lethal injection protocol could violate the Eighth Amendment only if an inmate first identified a ‘feasible, readily implemented’ alternative procedure that would ‘significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain.’” (Slip op., at 3)
  • Madison v. Alabama, ___ U.S. ___ (2019): 8th Amendment precludes execution of prisoner with dementia who does not remember his crime. (Expands on cause of memory loss — not just psychotic delusions/insanity.) (Summary)
  • Bucklew v. Precythe, ___ U.S. ___ (2019): 8th Amendment challenges to methods of execution must offer a proposed alternative. Facial challenges have same standard as as-applied (individually applied) challenges. Reaffirms Baze and Glossip.