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(Episode 27) Decency, Schmecency: The 8th Amendment, Part 2 of 2

In our second installment of the Eighth Amendment, we focus on the last (and most well-known) part:

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

We discussed some of the history of the Eighth Amendment in the first installment, so we won't rehash that. But, the Cruel & Unusual Punishments clause brings similar fears of the Founders: namely, that a too-powerful federal government that isn't specifically prohibited by the Constitution from acting badly will, in fact, act badly. So opponents of the Constitution argued that Congress might opt for a repeat of the inquisition or bring back some medieval-style torture. To combat that fear, the Eighth Amendment was enacted.

In this episode, we focus on case law even more than usual because it provides useful illustration of the ever-swinging penduluum of SCOTUS and of public opinion.  Specifically, we talk about the Supreme Court's standard that the…

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