published: 26 June 2017
On this day in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court instituted what became a four-year ban on the imposition of capital punishment in the United States.
In Furman v. Georgia, the court ruled 5 to 4 that capital punishment, as it was then being levied on both the state and federal levels, violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A narrow majority of the justices held that the death penalty constituted “cruel and unusual punishment,” basing their finding primarily on the “arbitrary and capricious ways” it was being administered, particularly regarding race.
The case involved William Furman, who had been apprehended by a homeowner, William Micke, while attempting to burgle Micke’s home. In attempting to flee, Furman told police that he fired his gun blindly behind him and killed Micke accidentally.
Death Penalty Laws by State