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Law School Case Brief

Furman v. Georgia - 408 U.S. 238, 92 S. Ct. 2726 (1972)

Rule:

The imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in cases where it is inflicted discriminatorily upon members of racial minorities constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Facts:

Defendant Furman was convicted of murder, and defendant Jackson was convicted of rape in separate trials in Georgia state court. Defendant Branch was convicted of rape in Texas state court. Each defendant was sentenced to the death. Defendants' appeals in their respective state courts were unsuccessful. The Supreme Court of the United States granted defendants writs of certiorari. Defendants challenged the imposition of the death sentence arguing that the death penalty imposed by the States was illegal because it constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Issue:

Was the imposition of death penalty cruel and unusual punishment as applied to defendants?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the death penalty did violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because the application of the penalty was discretionary, haphazard, and discriminatory in that it was inflicted in a small number of the total possible cases and primarily against certain minority groups. The judgments were reversed with directions to vacate the death sentences imposed, and the cases were remanded for further proceedings.

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