Critique Assignment Furman V. Georgia (1972) - Essay

853 words - 4 pages

Throughout the Furman v. Georgia from 1972 where the U.S Supreme Court abolished
the death penalty the majority offered many arguments on the grounds that it is cruel and unusual
punishment. Petitions were issued stating that the enforcement and carrying out of the death
penalty be regarded as cruel and unusual punishment and is in violation of the Eight and
Fourteenth Amendments. The discriminatory use of the death penalty was also brought to light.
This case also called into question the application of the death penalty by a judge or jury.
Citizens are protected from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eight and Fourteenth
Amendments. It was argued whether or not the death penalty violated these Amendments. The
words used in the Eighth Amendment stem from the English Bill of Rights of 1689 and are
included in provisions in the constitutions of eight states. The term cruel and unusual
punishment needed to be defined in order to determine if the death penalty violated the Eight and
Fourteenth Amendments. It is certainly cruel and unusual to implement the death penalty, but
even more so to do it selectively against minorities.

A study of capital cases in Texas from 1924 to 1968 found that there is clear inequality in the
application of the death penalty. When sentencing in cases with co-defendants white defendants
was likely to be sentenced to life whereas, Negro defendants received the death penalty. Many
discrimination patterns were revealed. It was argued that the implementation of the death penalty
constituted as cruel and unusual if applied for discriminatory reasons. There was a debate that
those who were poor, sick, ignorant, and has less power were more likely to receive the death
penalty than someone who did not possess these qualities. It was also pointed out that the
wealthier a person was the more capable they would be to hire a better lawyer which led to a
stronger defense which meant that they were less likely to be sentenced to the death penalty.

The discrimination came from the court's decision to leave the judgment in capital cases to the
discretion of a judge or jury.

There are no laws to govern the application of the death penalty in capital cases. The decision
to implement the death penalty is left up to the description of one man or 12 individuals. It is
completely uncontrolled in capital cases if a judge or jury gets to decide if someone
lives or dies. Using the example from the account of the Bloody Assizes. They argued that ma...

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