No such thing as Cruel and Unusual in the drug war

I was pessimistic, but hopeful, but it appears that the 8th Amendment is the latest one to bite the dust in the service of the drug warrior.

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


A federal appeals court has upheld a 55-year prison term imposed on a Utah man with no criminal record who was convicted in 2003 of selling several hundred dollars worth of marijuana on three occasions.[…]
The sentence properly reflected the will of Congress, the court said, and was not cruel or unusual punishment.

Oddly, the Federal Appeals court also apparently chose to repeal the 6th Amendment.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

How did they do this? By taking the word of the prosecutor that Weldon Angelos was a “bad person” without the facts being judged by a jury.

The court also said that Mr. Angelos’s lack of a criminal record appeared to be more about luck in not getting caught than any indication of innocence.

Yep, part of their decision had to do with the fact that they figured he probably did a lot more than he got caught for, so it’s OK to get a long sentence. That’s sort of like giving somebody a $50,000 speeding ticket and saying: “Hey, you’ve probably been going over the speed limit lots of times when we didn’t catch you.”
Hey, at least the 3rd Amendment is still intact.

Amendment III
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

…so far.

[Thanks, Tom]

Update: Via TalkLeft, Professor Doug Berman has related concerns at Sentencing Law and Policy (check out the comments for a fairly lively debate).
Oh, if we only had some “activist judges” who would rule that the Constitution matters more than the perverted desires of the executive branch.

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