Furman v. Georgia: A Death Penalty Criminal Case

Subject: Law
Pages: 3
Words: 561
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

The case of Furman v. Georgia was decided alongside two other claims by the Supreme Court of the U.S. constituting cruelty and unusual punishment. Initially, arguments on murder cases had started during the case of Robinson v. California, where the supreme court gave a ruling that the clause on “cruel and unusual punishment” can be applied in the14th Amendment. Death punishment has been imposed for serious crimes, however, many justices have been opposing it. In Furman v. Georgia, Furman was convicted for murder after he burglarized a private home. When one of the occupants saw him, he tried to flee, but Furman’s gun slipped and killed the homeowner.

The court found him guilty, and then Furman was sentenced to death alongside the cases of Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas. The case spurred debates on whether death punishment is cruel and did not match the constitution. The decision was made based on the sentence’s cruelty, thus breaking the 8th Amendment. The ruling was imposed disproportionally, implying harm to the minority groups and the poor. Justices Brennan and Marshall concurred that the penalty was against the constitution, and for any circumstance, fewer punishments can serve the punitive goals.


Whether imposing and ruling on death sentence in defendant’s cases constitute “cruel and usual punishment” in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments?


The court found Furman guilty of murder at the appeal court, although he was not charged but was taken to prison.


Death penalty decision dishonored the 8th and 14th Amendments, which prohibit “cruel and unusual punishment” and discrimination. Furman was found guilty after committing murder, and this was used against him in Court. The common law and public policy state that murder case is a capital offense that proves one guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The court gave the curium opinion holding that imposing death and penalty constituted cruelty, thus violating the constitution. Justices concurred and dissented as they gave their views on the contentious subject. The 8th Amendment protects prisoners from conviction as well as cruel and unusual punishment. Since the 14th Amendment protects citizens from discrimination, any biased judgements should be prohibited. The Court was supposed to decide on whether to sentence to death or choose on a lifetime imprisonment. In Furman’s case, the Court resolved that death sentence for the case was harsh due to the elements of discrimination.

The majority of the Court’s justices argued that the death sentence was majorly imposed on the poor, minority groups, and people of color; if based on such prejudices the decision can be considered cruel. Judges Stewart P., White B., Marshall T., and Douglas W.O. concurred with the court’s decision with the holding that death penalty’s imposition was cruel and unusual. The juries argued that the sentence was imposed in an unconstitutional manner under all circumstances. Justices Burger W.E., Blackmun H., Powell L.F, and Rehnquist W.H. dissented the decision stating that death punishment has been used to execute serious crimes, especially on murderers.

In conclusion, the court’s decision on imposing the death penalty was cruel for all three cases and violated the case constitution based on 8th and 14th Amendments. However, two justices dissented from the opinion, arguing that the sentence has long been used for capital crimes. The court emphasized that states should rethink the statutes on capital offenses and ensure that discrimination does not occur.