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Furman v. Georgia

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Lindsey Nanz

on 24 March 2014

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Transcript of Furman v. Georgia

Supreme Court Quotes
Justice Stewart's opinion on the case was considered the most influential. He wrote, "These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual." The eighth amendment, he explained, "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."
Constitutional Amendments
5th - Rights of accused persons: you don't have to testify against yourself (plead the 5th), due process of law, grand jury review of case
8th - Limits of fines and punishment: cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted
14th - Civil rights: rights extend to all persons
Summary of Case
Supreme Court
The court case was a 5-4 decision, which means that 5 justices were for the death penalty and 4 justices were against it. The court's decision held that the implication of the death penalty in this case was constituted as a "cruel and unusual punishment" and violated the Constitution. Justices Potter, White, and Douglas all agreed that there was a racial bias for the death penalty against African-American defendants.
William Henry Furman v. State of Georgia
Citations: 408 U.S. 238
Argued: January 17, 1972
Decided: June 29, 1972
Chief Justice: Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices: William O. Douglas; William J. Brennan, Jr.; Potter Stewart; Byron White; Thurgood Marshall; Harry Blackmun; Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; William Rehnquist
Furman v. Georgia
Felony Murder Rule
It is a legal doctrine that classifies murder into two groupings:
1. When the offender accidentally kills without specific intent to kill.
2. When the offender is liable for any debts that occur when a felony is committed.

Either way he worded the situation, Furman would have been guilty of murder since the shooting occurred during the "commission of a felony."
Apellate Court Rule
There was no information found that indicated an appellate case was held.
The court case was a 5-4 decision (for capital punishment), but it was decided that the implication of the death penalty in this case was constituted as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and violated the Constitution.
How this case has affected the United States
The Supreme Court allowed each state to decide for themselves who is given the death penalty based on the two category system.
Kelsey Broadwell and Lindsey Nanz
Legal Information Institution, C. U. L. S. (n.d.). Furman v. georgia. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/408/238

Coenen, D. T. (2004, Octo 10). Furman v. georgia (1972). Retrieved from http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/furman-v-georgia-1972

Farlex. (2008). Furman v. georgia. Retrieved from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Furmanv.Georgia
Summary of Crime
William Furman was attempting to burglarize a home in Savannah, Georgia when the homeowner discovered him. While he tried to flee he tripped and fell which set his gun off, accidentally killing the homeowner. He was convicted of murder and given the death penalty.
Furman originally told officers that he was trying to escape and fired a blind shot at the victim, but his story later changed when he said that he tripped and accidentally fired at the victim. Ultimately, Furman's words were used against him and he was sentenced to death under the felony murder rule.
This clip from the A&E series American Justice describes the finding of arbitrariness in capital cases in the landmark Furman v. Georgia decision, which put a moratorium on all executions in the United States in 1972.
Draco Malfoy is watching you -->
Anthony Amsterdam's quote: "We're talking about a progressive trend which has brought virtually every nation in the Western Hemisphere, with the possible exception of Paraguay and Chile, to abolish the death penalty."
The eighth amendment was argued because many people saw capital punishment as cruel and unusual. The fifth was argued because other people believed that capital punishment was only "cruel and unusual" if due process of law was NOT applied. Justice Douglas argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment should be able to protect those who were "poor and socially disadvantaged."
Debated Question
"Does the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th and 14th amendments?"
• Justice Douglas argued that the death penalty was “disproportionally applied to people who were poor and socially disadvantaged”. He argued that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment should be used to strike down the death penalty.
• Justices Brennan and Marshall viewed the death penalty as being cruel and unusual in of itself.
• Justice Stewart’s opinion was the most influential. He saw that the death penalty was so different from any other punishment and had to be administered rationally and fairly. He did not agree with Brennan and Marshall, but still reversed the penalty for Furman.

Dissenting Opinion
Justices Burger, Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist had the dissenting opinion. These were the four people that voted against the death penalty.
Our Opinions
We agree with the Supreme Court's ruling of this case and would not have changed any aspects.
Full transcript