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Georgia and the United States federal government

Georgia and the United States federal government

Puerto Rico revoked it in 1929 and the District of Columbia in 1981. Arizona and Oregon abolished the death penalty by popular vote in 1916 and 1964, respectively, but both reinstated it, again by popular vote, a few years later; Arizona reinstated the death penalty in 1918 and Oregon reinstated 1978.

In Oregon, the measure that reinstated the death penalty was overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1981, but Oregon voters again reinstated the death penalty in 1984. Puerto Rico and Michigan are the only two jurisdictions in the United States that explicitly prohibited the death penalty in their constitutions: in 1952 and 1964, respectively.

Federal government for a variety of crimes

Developments in constitutional lawHowever, capital punishment continued to be used by most states and the federal government for a variety of crimes, especially murders and rapes, from the creation of the United States until the early 1960s. Until then, “except for a few dissidents, nobody gave credibility to the possibility of ending the death penalty by the judicial interpretation of constitutional law “, according to abolitionist Hugo.

The possibility of challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty became progressively more realistic after the United States Supreme Court ruled on Trop v. Dulles in 1958. The Supreme Court explicitly declared, for the first time, that the cruel and unusual clause of the Eighth Amendment must extract its meaning from the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society”, not from its meaning. original.

Also in the case of Powell v. Alabama of 1932, the court took the first step of what would later be called “death is different” jurisprudence, when it considered that any indigent defendant was entitled to a court-appointed lawyer in capital cases, a right that was only extended to defendants who were not capital in 1963, with Gideon v. Wainwright. 

Federal government for a variety of crimes

Suspended death penalty (1972)See also: Furman v. GeorgiaIn Furman v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court considered a group of consolidated cases. The main case involved an individual convicted under Georgia’s death penalty statute, which included a “unit trial” procedure in which the jury was asked to return a verdict of guilt or innocence and, at the same time, determine whether the defendant would be punished for death or life imprisonment.

To the United States Constitution

The last pre-Furman execution was that of Luis Monge on June 2, 1967. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned the imposition of the death penalty in each of the cases consolidated as unconstitutional in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court has never ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional. The five majority judges did not produce a common opinion or justification for their decision, however, they agreed only with a short statement announcing the result.

The narrower opinions of Byron White and Potter Stewart expressed widespread concerns about the inconsistent application of the death penalty in several cases, but did not exclude the possibility of a constitutional death penalty law. Stewart and William O. Douglas were explicitly concerned with racial discrimination in the application of the death penalty. Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan expressed the opinion that the death penalty was absolutely prohibited by the Eighth Amendment as a cruel and unusual punishment.

The Furman ruling meant that all death sentences pending at the time were reduced to life imprisonment and was described by scholars as a “legal bomb .” The next day, columnist Barry Schweid wrote that it was “unlikely” that the death penalty could exist more in the United States.   

United States Supreme Court in Washington, DCRestoration of the death penalty (1976)See also: Furman v. GeorgiaInstead of abandoning the death penalty, 37 states have enacted new death penalty statutes that attempted to address the concerns of Byron White and Potter Stewart in Furman. Some states responded by enacting mandatory death penalty statutes that prescribed a death sentence for anyone convicted of certain forms of murder.

Designed to limit the discretion of the juror

White had suggested that this scheme would address his constitutional concerns in his opinion of Furman. Other states have adopted “bifurcated” judgment and sentence procedures, with several procedural limitations on the jury’s ability to pronounce a death sentence designed to limit the discretion of the juror. On July 2, 1976, the United States Supreme Court ruled Gregg v. Georgia  3 by 7 to 2 and maintained the procedure in Georgia in which the capital crimes trial was forked in phases of innocence and guilt.

In the first case, the jury decides the defendant’s guilt ; if the defendant is innocent or is not convicted of first-degree murder, the death penalty will not be applied. At the second hearing, the jury determines whether there are certain statutory aggravating factors, whether there are mitigating factors and, in many jurisdictions, the aggravating and mitigating factors are weighed in the assessment of the maximum penalty, death or life imprisonment, with or without parole.

Designed to limit the discretion of the juror

On the same day, in Woodson v. North Carolina  3 and Roberts v. Louisiana,  the court overturned 5 to 4 statutes, providing a mandatory death sentence. Executions resumed on January 17, 1977, when Gary Gilmore was executed by a firing squad in Utah. Although hundreds of individuals were sentenced to death in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s, only ten people besides Gilmore (who has waived all his rights of appeal) were actually executed before 1984. 

Supreme Court restricts capital crimesIn 1977, the Coker v. Georgia of the United States Supreme Court has banned the death penalty for rape of an adult woman. Previously, the death penalty for adult rape had been phased out in the United States, and at the time of the decision, Georgia and the United States federal government were the only two jurisdictions that still held the death penalty for that crime. In the case of Godfrey v. Georgia, in 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled that murder can only be punished with death if it involves a narrow and precise aggravating factor .

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