Gregg v. Georgia 1976
A Jury found Troy Gregg guilty of committing an armed robbery and murder. In accordance with Georgia law, the trial was in two stages, a guilt stage, and a sentencing stage. At the guilt stage of Georgia's bifurcated procedure, the jury found the petitioner guilty of two accounts armed robbery and murder. At the penalty stage, the judge instructed the jury that it could recommend either a death sentence or a life prison sentence on each count and the jury returned the verdict of death. Challenging his death sentence, Gregg claimed that his capital sentence was "cruel and unusual" punishment, violating the 8th and 14th amendment.
The primary question to be considered was if the imposition of the death sentence is prohibited under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as "cruel and unusual" punishment. Similarly just a few years earlier in Furman v. Georgia (1972) it was ruled that capital punishment laws were violating the 8th and 14th amendments because they failed to prevent arbitrary ruling, and unpredictable application. However, between 1972 and 1976, 35 states passed new statutes authorizing the death penalty. This raises questions of whether a state's rights are being imposed, and should there be a national capital punishment standard, or should each state deal with the issue on an individual basis?
In a 7 to 2 vote the court chose to uphold the judicial system under which Troy Gregg was convicted. It was found that the punishment of death did not violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under all circumstances. The cautious and judicious use of the death penalty may be found appropriate when used in extreme criminal cases, such as when a defendant has been convicted of deliberately killing. Justice Stewart stated that through American History, the majority of state legislatures have not found the death penalty to be cruel or unusual; moreover, the...
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