Harmelin v. Michigan

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Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991).

Facts: D was convicted of possessing 672 g of Cocaine.

Procedural History: Sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison without possibility of parole.

Issue: Was the punishment disproportionate to the crime? (Eight Amend. provides "nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.")

Arguments: Scalia: the eighth amend. doesn't contain any proportionality guarantee. Kennedy: proportionality principle has been with us for 80 years, but it doesn't "require strict proportionality between crime and sentence. Rather, it forbids only extreme sentences that are 'grossly disproportionate' to the crime." White: "a punishment may violate the Eighth Amendment if it is contrary to the 'evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." In Michigan, murder receives the same punishment.

Holding: Majority: sentence isn't contrary to the eighth amendment clause of cruel and unusual punishment.

Reasons: See Scalia and Kennedy, above.

Judgment: Affirmed.

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