Branch v. Texas were consolidated under Furman v. Georgia for the Supreme Court's review.
As in McGautha and Crampton, the issue of standardless juries was central to the legal argument in all three cases. However, instead of attacking the constitutionality of the procedure, the petitioners in Furman focused on the results of the procedure -- which they claimed were arbitrary and capricious death sentences that amounted to the kind of cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment ( Paternoster 1991:53).
In a landmark decision handed down on June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court agreed -- ruling that the death penalty, as it was then being administered, was "cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments."
As a result of the decision, more than six hundred death row inmates in thirty-two states had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment -- a clear victory for the abolitionists ( Bedau 1977:82; Paternoster 1991:58; Schwed 1983:135).
However, the issue of capital punishment still was far from resolved. The Court's majority had been a narrow one (5-4) and lacked a plurality opinion (all nine justices wrote separate opinions in the case). Further, the majority opinion had not declared the death penalty unconstitutional under all circumstances -- only as it then was being administered by the states. Hence, the justices had left the door open for states to devise death penalty procedures that could be considered constitutional ( Epstein and Kobylka 1992:82; Paternoster 1991:58).
Petitioner in No. 69-5003 was convicted of murder in Georgia and was sentenced to death pursuant to Ga. Code Ann. §26-1005. . . . Petitioner in No. 69-5030 was convicted of rape in Georgia and was sentenced to death pursuant to Ga. Code Ann. § 26-1302. . . . Petitioner in No. 69-5031 was convicted of rape in Texas and was sentenced to death pursuant to Tex. Penal Code, Art. 1189. . . . Certiorari was granted limited to the following question: "Does the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in [these cases] constitute cruel and unusual punishment in vi
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Publication information: Book title: Capital Punishment in the United States:A Documentary History. Contributors: Bryan Vila - Editor, Cynthia Morris - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 141.
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