Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The Court held in Furman v. Georgia1 that the death penalty, at least as administered, violated the Eighth Amendment. There was no unifying opinion of the Court in Furman; the five Justices in the majority each approached the matter from a different angle in a separate concurring opinion. Two Justices concluded that the death penalty was
cruel and unusual per se because the imposition of capital punishment
does not comport with human dignity2 or because it is
morally unacceptable and
excessive.3 One Justice concluded that because death is a penalty inflicted on the poor and hapless defendant but not the affluent and socially better defendant, it violates the implicit requirement of equality of treatment found within the Eighth Amendment.4 Two Justices concluded that capital punishment was both
unusual because it was applied in an arbitrary,
freakish manner5 and so infrequently that it served no justifying end.6