Harmelin V. Michigan (1991)
# 8 Amendment: Cruel and unusual punishment.
Harmelin was caught with 672 grams of cocaine and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The state court of Michigan ruled him guilty with this sentence so he appealed to the supreme court. He claims the sentence is cruel and unusual because it is significantly disproportionate to the crime he committed, and because the judge is statutorily required to impose it without taking in consideration of the crime and the criminal. He felt it was a cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
The Court, in a 5-to-4 decision decided that this was not cruel and unusual punishment because the 8th Amendment does not state what is a cruel or unusual punishment in this way. Knowing this they decided that life in prison is not cruel or unusual. They thought that a cruel or unusual punishment for this case is the death penalty not life in prison. If the death penalty was the punishment the Supreme Court would have ruled that this is cruel and unusual punishment and made a new punishment.
In conclusion the Supreme Court decided this is not a cruel or unusual punishment.