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Furman v. Georgia

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Furman v. Georgia, Template:Ussc was a United States Supreme Court decision that ruled on the requirement for a degree of consistency in the application of the death penalty. Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas, death sentences for rape, had the same result applied to them as part of a combined decision and ruling.

A resident of a house came home while Furman was breaking into it. While trying to escape Furman tripped and his gun fired accidentally. One of the residents was shot and killed. Furman was tried for murder and was found guilty. He was sentenced to death.

Justice Potter Stewart, as one of the majority, wrote that "These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual. For, of all the people convicted of rapes and murders in 1967 and 1968, many just as reprehensible as these, the petitioners are among a capriciously selected random handful upon whom the sentence of death has in fact been imposed. My concurring Brothers have demonstrated that, if any basis can be discerned for the selection of these few to be sentenced to die, it is the constitutionally impermissible basis of race. See McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184 (1964) But racial discrimination has not been proved, n14 and I put it to one side. I simply conclude that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments cannot tolerate the infliction of a sentence of death under legal systems that permit this unique penalty to be so wantonly and so freakishly imposed". Two other Justices came to comparable conclusions based on factors including the quality of legal representation provided. Justices Brennan and Marshall concurred on the grounds that the death penalty was incompatible with the evolving standards of decency of a contemporary society. The dissenting justices pointed out that capital punishment had always been regarded as appropriate under the Anglo-American legal tradition for serious crimes and that the text of the Constitution did not support the invalidation of all American death penalty laws.

Subsequent events seemed to validate the views of the dissenters: in the subsequent four years, 37 states enacted new death penalty laws aimed at overcoming Stewart's objections to the lack of standards to guide the discretion of juries and judges in imposing death sentences. The new laws were in large part upheld in a series of decisions in 1976.nl:Furman vs. Georgia

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