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Constitutional Law No. 02-41137, 4/25/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: “John E,” a minor, was caught stealing a candy bar and, as punishment, was ordered to attend a one-day boot camp, where he suffered severe symptoms from heat stroke. John E’s parents sued the camp operator, Harrison County, the camp director, and a camp worker, alleging, inter alia, the violation of his Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights. The district court granted plaintiffs’ partial motion for summary judgment denying the defendant camp directors the defenses of qualified and official immunity. HOLDING: Reversed with respect to plaintiffs’ constitutional claim of disproportionate punishment and state law claims for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, and affirmed in all other respects. A judge found John E guilty, and while at STAR he was in the custody of the state following a due process hearing. Though a one-day youth offender camp can hardly be equated to incarceration in a penitentiary, John E was not free to leave; he was a prisoner. Campers were threatened with jail time if they did not comply with the physical exercise regimen; Gipson deposed that any camper who failed to comply was loaded into an awaiting van and taken to jail. All of this confirms the custodial nature of John E’s punishment, so the court concludes that the Eighth Amendment applies. The court erred, however, in concluding that the camp regimen violated the proportionality principle of the Eighth Amendment. An individual judge “must not apply his own subjective view of what is cruel and unusual. Rather, his judgment ‘should be informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent.’ ” Sampson v. King, 693 F.2d 556, 569 (5th Cir. 1982) (citations omitted). Under a “totality of conditions test,” conditions of confinement must not impose the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain. Howard v. King, 707 F.2d 215 (5th Cir. 1983). In Howard, for example, inmates stated an Eighth Amendment claim where they were forced to perform hard labor 56 hours a week for over a year. The Constitution “does not mandate adoption of any one penological theory.” Ewing v. California, 123 S. Ct. 1179 (2003). In fact, a “sentence can have a variety of justifications, such as incapacitation, deterrence, retribution, or rehabilitation.” The exercises apparently were designed so that anyone, regardless of physical fitness level, could complete them. Requiring youthful offenders to perform military-styled exercises for one day is neither cruel nor unusual; it is a deliberate policy choice to instill discipline. Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349 (1962). Jogging and carrying a weighted sack at a Texas high school cannot be cruel and unusual punishment one day and an accepted form of athletic conditioning the next. The Eighth Amendment proportionality principle applies to noncapital sentences and contains four principles – the primacy of the Legislature, the variety of legitimate penological schemes, the nature of the federal system and the requirement that proportionality review be guided by objective factors. Strict proportionality between the crime and sentence is unnecessary. After concluding that the exercise regimen constituted cruel and unusual punishment, the district court summarily found that the punishment was disproportionate to the crime. The court disagrees, emphasizing the reasonable flexibility that should be accorded local authorities to deal with wayward youths. Cases that have found disproportionate sentences involve long-term imprisonment, so the nominal punishment of a one-day boot camp cannot pass muster. OPINION: Smith, J.; Higginbotham, Smith and Clement, JJ.

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