Arbitrary and Capricious: The Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the Death Penalty

Synopsis

"Nearly 100 influential Supreme Court capital punishment-related cases from 1878-2002 are examined, beginning with Wilkerson v. Utah, which question not the legitimacy of capital punishment, but the methods of execution. Over time, focus shifted from the constitutionality of certain methods to the fairness of who was being sentenced for capital crimes - and why. The watershed 1972 ruling Furman v. Georgia reversed the Court's stand on capital punishment, holding that the arbitrary and capricious imposition of the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. Furman clarified that any new death penalty legislation must contain sentencing procedures that avoid the arbitrary infliction of a life-ending verdict, which led to the current complex tangle of issues surrounding the death penalty and its constitutional viability." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved