Furman V. Georgia: The Death Penalty Case

1039 words - 5 pages

“William Henry Furman, a twenty-six-year-old black man with a sixth grade education, was not what most people called a “bad” man,” (Herda 7). Furman was just laid off of his job and was struggling to find work. But there was none. Every job did not pay enough, or was a short term job. Eventually, depressed, hungry, and broke, Furman turned to breaking and entering and to petty thievery by means of survival. Furman was caught a few times and was given a light sentence. He was also examined by a psychiatrist and was determined to be mentally impaired, but not enough to go to a mental institution. But on August 11, 1967, Furman went to rob the house of twenty-nine-year-old William Joseph Micke, Jr. with his wife and five young children. When searching through the house, Furman made too much noise, which alerted Micke. Furman heard Micke walking down the stairs and pulled out his gun that he used for scaring people away. But Micke kept walking downwards. Not wanting to be caught, Furman tried to run away and tripped over an exposed cord. His gun discharged. The bullet ricocheted to the back door. On the other side, a body fell to the floor. William Joseph Micke Jr. was dead. “The police responded to the call quickly and, within minutes, they had apprehended Furman just down the street from the scene of the crime. The murders weapon was still in his pocket,” (Herda 9). Furman tried to plead guilty by insanity and the psychiatrists described him as legally insane. But then, several days later one of the psychiatrists revised their medical opinion. Because he was not insane, the case would go on. The state of Georgia charged him with murder and issued the death penalty. This was because Georgia state law stated that any form of murder issued with a felony was punishable by death. Furman’s attorneys knew that the murder had been accidental and that Furman was genuinely sorry for the action he had caused, so they decide there was only one other path out: The Supreme Court.
"…[T]he American people no longer felt that the death penalty was suited to human dignity," they said. Most importantly, however, the attorneys argued that poor people and people of color routinely received the death penalty for capital offenses, at a rate vastly disproportionate to that of whites, particularly affluent whites, accused of similar offenses. This was a clear violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws,” (Supreme Court Cases: Furman v. Georgia).”
This was Furman’s attorney’s argument. They felt that the decision of the Georgia court was unconstitutional and was discriminating Furman, an African-American. Furman’s attorney, Clarence Mayfield, prepared an argument for the case. First, he would try to convince the court to change their choice of death penalty because one member of the jury was absent during the case. Next, he would try to argue that Furman was not read his rights when arrested, that he was held in jail more than the...

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