Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Furman v. Georgia

Case Name: Furman v. Georgia

Year: 1972

Result: 5-4, favor Furman

Related Constitutional Issue/Amendment: Amendment VIII, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Amendment XIV

Civil Rights or Civil Liberties: Civil Liberties (VIII) as well as Civil Rights (XIV)

Significance/Precedent: Furman's gun went off accidentally and killed someone as he was robbing a home, and he was sentenced the the death penalty. However, the Supreme Court ruled that this death penalty was "cruel and unusual". It is also important to note that Furman was African American, and the sentence was determined to be biased. Unless the death penalty is applied consistently, then it is cruel and unusual, meaning that it is unconstitutional.

Quote from Majority Opinion: "The Court holds that the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The judgment in each case is therefore reversed insofar as it leaves undisturbed the death sentence imposed, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings."

Summary of the Dissent: There were four separate dissents written, because each of the four dissenters disagreed with the majority opinion for a different primary reason. The death penalty was too biased to be exercised in this situation and Furman's crimes were not consistent with the death penalty, making his punishment "cruel and unusual".
Quote: "Although the Eighth Amendment literally reads as prohibiting only those punishments that are both "cruel" and "unusual," history compels the conclusion that the Constitution prohibits all punishments of extreme and barbarous cruelty, regardless of how frequently or infrequently imposed." (Taken from Burger's dissent)

Six-word Summary: Death penalty can be racist, unconstitutional

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