Constitutional Conflict of the Dealth Penalty
The courts positions of the death penalty has changed over the years. For centuries societies have used death as the ultimate penalty for crime. In the 1960's, the court ruled against the death penalty as a "cruel and unusual punishment", which was forbidden by the eighth amendment of the Constitution. By the 1990's the death penalty was again in wide use supported by the court and Congress, which continually expanded by legislation the crimes for which death would be an acceptable penalty.
Supreme Court cases that have felt the death penalty was unconstitutional include Roberts vs. Louisiana and Furman vs. Georgia. Roberts vs. Louisiana, (1976) was a case that tried Robert, who robbed a store in Louisiana. During the robbery, Robert shot and killed an on duty police officer. He was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to death. He appealed and his case went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's decision was that it was unconstitutional for everyone convicted of murder to be sentenced to death.
The most important case that ruled the death penalty unconstitutional is Furman vs. Georgia, 1972. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a majority of five to four, ruled that the death penalty was "cruel and unusual" and thus violated the eighth amendment. Justice Brennen thought the death penalty was "cruel and unusual in all cases, a denial of the executed person's humanity, and uniquely degrading to human dignity" (The American Heritage History of the Bill of Rights, p. 93.).
Historically speaking when the Eighth Amendment was written Capitol Punishment was a fact of American life and continued to be so. The Supreme Court handed down on July 2, 1976 in Gregg V. Georgia a landmark case clarifying the Eighth Amendment. “In this case the Court approved a new Georgia statute that set out in detail various aggravating and mitigating circumstances that would justify the imposition of the Capitol Penalty. These circumstances included air craft highjacking; treason; murder for hire; murder of a judicial officer, policeman, or fireman in line of duty; and murder by a person with a previous record of violent crime. This decision made it clear that the justices did not consider the death penalty per say to be...