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The Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment reads as follows:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines levied, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” 

Of course this Amendment also emanate from the Magna Carta of 1215.  Even today in Missouri, with the Missouri Supreme Court attempting to lessen the burdens and costs of non-convicted county prisoners, the key word is “excessive”. This word means different things to different interest groups.   

Historically in the young pioneer days of a youthful United States, bail for an accused was usually only required in matters of homicidal. In fact today in Missouri, in the case of Murder in the First Degree, a Court can and often does hold an accused person without a hearing and without a bail bond being set by the Court.

As I have said before, there is a fuzzy line between jailing an “innocent” non-convicted accused and the Right of the public to be safe and secure. And then throw in the issue of poverty and Right of due process to prohibit discrimination against poor people who can’t afford any bail.   

With a combination of required drug testing, GPS monitoring, and the acceptance of 10% cash security bonds; the system seems to work pretty well here in Douglas County and in Wright and Ozark County.

Personally I think defense bar, the Prosecuting Attorney, and the Courts have figured out this tricky balance between the presumption of innocence and safety of the community, all under the auspices and direction of the Mo. Supreme Court. By the way, his issue is one of relevance to almost all of the state of the Union, not just to Mo.

To my knowledge the last public hanging occurred on the square in Ozark, involving members of the Baldknobbers. The last execution by firing squad in the United States occurred in Utah in the seventies Gillmore. 

In 1976, Missouri and several other states voluntarily quit executing prisoners because of both Mo. and US Supreme Court decisions on the definite requirements to comply with the Eight Amendment, and preceding any executions by the States. 

One of the last people executed under Federal Law was Timothy McVeigh, the alleged mastermind of the 1994 Oklahoma Federal Bldg. bombing that resulted in the loss of 168 innocent lives.  

In 1976, the Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia, issued a landmark decision that approved capital punishment as long as the jury is directed and follows “concrete sentencing guidelines 

Most states now require an anonymous jury verdict before an accused can be sentenced to death. Missouri is in the minority of states that allow executions even if the jury considers all mitigating factors and finds the existence of at least one aggravating factor in their jury instructions. 

Within the last couple of years, the Supreme Court further restricted executions of persons of less than 18 yr. old at the time of the offense and those persons mentally incapacitated. And then the Mo. Supreme Court followed that ruling up with a further restriction, involving new hearings for persons sentenced for a crime committed while they were 17 or younger. All sentences of “50 years without parole” and “life without parole” now require a re-submission of the case for sentencing with several new factors to be considered, this will affect at least 300-400 people now in prison, I understand. 

 Note: Feb. 2 (Ground Hog Day) 

Ah, 72° degrees today gets me thinking about spring wild flowers. Of course I know this phenomenon is just a normal and not uncommon, early February thaw. But what a great teaser! 

Even though I do not reside in the Ava School District (Skyline R-2 for my family, a great K-8 school), I am still eagerly awaiting the announcement of which particular school board member showed up at the local Herald office loudly complaining of news coverage about a recent public school board meeting where the busing issue was once again the main topic of conversation. 

Of course, today a host of people confuse the “messenger with the message”. Some want to complain about “fake” news coverage.  Just remember, most autocrats and dictators complain of “fake” news while contemplating a complete takeover. 

And when there is a take-over, the first things seized are the TV broadcasting facilities, radio broadcasting, and then all newspaper concerns.  This is done to control the flow and “color” of the news under a new and undramatic regime. 

Anyway, as a taxpayer and as a resident voter for the Ava School Board, don’t you think that the public is entitled to know the name of the person that was “out of line” enough for the police to be called to the office of the local paper. Enough said.        

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozarks outdoors!