Harmelin V. Michigan - The Majority Ruling

The Majority Ruling

The only aspect of the decision that garnered the vote of five Justices was the ultimate conclusion that the mandatory life without parole sentence required by the Michigan law forbidding the possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine was not cruel and unusual punishment. "Severe, mandatory penalties may be cruel, but they are not unusual in the constitutional sense, having been employed in various forms throughout our Nation's history." Nor did the Eighth Amendment require a sentencing court to consider mitigating factors in noncapital cases. It was enough that Michigan law allowed for executive clemency, or that the legislature might at some later date retroactively reduce the sentence for Harmelin's crime.

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