Classroom Discussion Starter: Freedom from Excessive Punishment

Your browser requires Javascript and Flash to play this movie.

A state governor faces a heavy decision, as a death row inmate’s life hangs in the balance. Voices both for and against the death penalty grow louder as she considers both sides of the argument. Hear how she weighs the issue just two hours before the scheduled execution.

"Freedom from Excessive Punishment" Discussion Questions

  1. What are the protections of the 8th Amendment?
  2. What is happening outside the governor’s mansion? Why? What is the issue?
  3. What are the arguments against capital punishment that the governor must consider?
  4. What are the arguments in support of capital punishment?
  5. You are the Governor! Using the language of the 8th Amendment, as well as the arguments for and against capital punishment, what decision would you make in this case? Be prepared to support your answer with textual evidence.
  6. How do we define a cruel and unusual punishment? Has that definition changed over time?

About the Living News Classroom Discussion Videos

Performed at the National Constitution Center, Living News is a fast paced theatrical production that introduces current and controversial issues to middle and high school students.

Excerpts from the performance have been filmed and made available for use in the classroom—these video, along with the discussion questions provided, can help educators introduce or continue conversations on constitutional topics.

Classroom Resources

Living News Classroom Teaching Materials

For an in-depth analysis of the eighth amendment, check out the Interactive Constitution, a new, free, online teaching tool that delivers scholarship from top constitutional experts right to your classroom!

Sign up for our email newsletter