Sentencing is defined as the penalty phase which follows a guilty verdict levied for a criminal act (The Free Dictionary, 2014). Sentencing attempts to accomplish four goals:
d. Rehabilitation (Renter, 2008)
When imposing legal sanctions we must consider the criminal act committed. The importance of this consideration lies in fact that the punishment should fit the crime. We would not want to sentence a child to life imprisonment for stealing a candy bar any more than we would we want to sentence someone convicted of murder to six months community supervision. Granted, these examples are extreme; however, they do help to make sense of proportionality and how it affects sentencing.
This paper will attempt to explain the importance of proportionality with regards to criminal sentencing, increase understanding of the reasons our sentencing procedures continually fluctuate, identify three groups of individuals protected under the 8th Amendment from receiving a death sentence for a capital offense, attempts to explain the relationship between sentencing and the 6th Amendment, and will discuss the origin of the felony murder rule and its applicability.
Assignment 3 - Sentencing
II. What is meant by Proportionality?
In sentencing proportionality refers to consistency of punishments as they relate to crime. In our attempt to govern behavior and to have it conform to society’s notion of acceptable behavior; it is our responsibility to ensure that criminal acts are not punished more severely than need be to accomplish our goals.
Over the years, proportionality has been argued most with respect to the death penalty. The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically forbids “cruel and unusual” punishment. There have been several high profile court decisions that have upheld the constitutional meaning of what is considered cruel and unusual. The case of Furman v Georgia brought the issue to the forefront. In this case Mr. Furman had been sentenced to death upon his conviction for murder. Mr. Furman appealed his sentence claiming a lack of uniformity with regards to the imposition of the death penalty (Furman v. Georgia, 1972). The U.S. Supreme court reversed Georgia’s decision claiming that the death penalty in Mr. Furman’s case was too severe and constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” (Furman v. Georgia, 1972). Coker v Georgia highlighted proportionality as Mr. Coker had received the death penalty following his conviction for rape. Again the Unites States Supreme Court held that death was irrevocable; therefore the imposition of the death penalty was excessive in relation to the crime committed (Coker v. Georgia, 1977).
Sentencing fluctuates continually as our goals and views on criminality change. The “Three Strikes Rule” and other such “get tough on crime” policies changed our approach to sentencing by focusing more on punishment than rehabilitation. This...