Protected under the Constitution, “No person shall be deprived of his or her LIFE, liberty, and property under Due Process of law.” These fundamental rights, primarily LIFE, apply to capital punishment- the death penalty. For years, the Court has deliberated decisions in regards to the death penalty and countless times they have overthrown previous decisions. This in no way means laws, under the Constitution, have changed; however, the Court and our interpretation(s) of the law have changed.
In Furman V. Georgia (1972), the Court held the death penalty is a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Furman quickly gave rise to the controversial issue of capital punishment. As a result, several states adopted laws requiring juries to consider aggravating factors (justifying the imposition of capital punishment) and mitigating factors (justifying the imposition of an alternative sentence to the death penalty based on the aspect of the defendant’s character and/ or record) (O’Brien).
In Gregg V. Georgia (1976), the Court upheld Georgia’s statute specifying the aggravating and mitigating circumstances for imposing the death penalty and providing two separate trials: one for guilt and the other for punishment. Gregg reversed Furman. According to Kenneth Haas, the aftermath of Gregg led the Court to be aware: death is a different kind of punishment from any other and there should be fairness and consistency in determining the sentence. I agree. When determining a decision there should be consistency in making a decision. However, the Court must also take into account the facts and issues of the case. As stated in Lockett, every case for the individual is different.
In Lockett V. Ohio (1978), with a six to three vote, the Court held states may limit the mitigating factors juries consider in imposing the death sentence. Each case is different and there should be individual sentencing.
Chief Justice Burger gave the opinion of the Court and argued under the statue, a defendant is found guilty of aggravated murder after meeting one of seven specified aggravating circumstances: the death penalty must be imposed unless, considering the “nature and, circumstances of the offense and the history, character, and condition of the offender…” To determine their decision, they considered three statutory mitigating circumstances: 1. The victim of the offense induced or facilitated it; 2. By fact, it is unlikely that the offense would have been committed. The offender must be under strong pressure and persuasion; and 3. The offense was primarily the product of the offender’s mental incapacity, even though such condition does not establish the full defense of insanity. (O’Brien).
In Coker V. Georgia (1977), the Court held capital punishment is disproportionate for the crime of rape on an adult woman. I agree. Regardless of the legislator’s beliefs or values, dicta in Coker gave state legislators and constituent’s good reason to fear any law permitting the imposition of...