The Death Penalty and American Supreme Court Essay

The Death Penalty and American Supreme Court, 488 words essay example

Essay Topic: death penalty, american

Ashlee L Lopez
March 22, 2016
Plank M/W 1230pm
Gov 2305
The Death Penalty
Furman v. Georgia 408 U.S. 238 (1972) was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the erratic and arbitrary use of the death penalty. It ruled states must further manage a degree of consistency in the administration of capital punishment and ultimately resulted in a de facto moratorium of capital punishment till 1976 when overturned by Gregg v. Georgia. Through a split decision of 5-4, the Court's per curium held the enforcement of the death penalty in this case to constitute cruel and unusual punishment and thus in violation of both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
26-year-old William Henry Furman, an African American man from Georgia was convicted of murder after breaking into a private residence with the intent of robbery. After awaking home owner Mickey William Jr, whom attempted to detain him. Furman, armed with a revolver, attempted to flee allegedly dropping his gun, discharging and killing the home owner. Contradicting his prior statement that he'd turned and blindly fired shot while escaping, Furman was tried and found guilty of murder. Between the sentencing of life imprisonment or death the jury chose to impose the death penalty
The majority could not agree upon a rationale and the court was left with 9 differing opinions articulating each Justices reasoning. Through evidence, past implications where found to be unequal, often discretionary, and indiscriminate leaving Justices Douglas, Stewart, and White of the majority opinion to note capital punishment as disproportionately administered and carried out in higher regards to those whom are poor, black, or of other minority. These opinions were the most similar, finding only the death penalty as currently practiced to be cruel and unusual, and are often considered the majority opinion. Justices Brennan and Marshall, also of the concurring opinion, determined the death penalty itself to constitute cruel and unusual punishment and contrary to contemporary society's evolving standards of decency. Justices Douglas, William, Brennan, and Marshall questioned whether any administration of the death penalty could avoid constituting cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Douglas' resolution of the death penalty as disproportionately applied to the poor and socially disadvantaged suggests the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment be applied as unequal application constitutes cruel and unusual punishment further raising the possibility of impartial application deeming capital punishment as constitutional.
Chief Justice Burger and Justices Blackmun, Powell, and Rehnquist articulated dissenting views countering the majority opinion, arguing the position of judicial restraint, affirming the death penalty as a matter for the people to decide through their legislatures and debating emotional appeals as unfitting for Supreme Court opinions. Beginning with an analysis of the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, Chief Justice Burgers dissent explores whether the eighth amendment prohibits the death penalty and petitions for judicial non-involvement on the matter of eradicating capital punishment. Dissenters expressed concerned by the loss of federalism and the unreasonably invasive judicial activism practiced by the justices of the Warren Court.

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