That is my ambition, to have killed more people-more helpless people-than any man or woman who has ever lived.
GREGG VS GEORGIA
|Litigants=Gregg v. Georgia |ArgueDate=March 31 |ArgueYear=1976 |DecideDate=July 2 |DecideYear=1976 |FullName=Troy Leon Gregg v. State of Georgia |USVol=428 |USPage=153 |Citation=96 S. Ct. 2909; 49 L. Ed. 2d 859; 1976 U.S. LEXIS 82 |Prior=Certiorari to the Supreme Court of Georgia |Subsequent= |Holding=The imposition of the death penalty does not, automatically, violate the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment, lower court's judgment is affirmed. |SCOTUS=1975-1981 |Majority=Stewart |JoinMajority=Powell, Stevens |Concurrence=Rehnquist |Concurrence2=White |Concurrence3=Blackmun |JoinConcurrence2=Burger, Rehnquist |Dissent=Brennan |Dissent2=Marshall |LawsApplied=U.S. Const. amend. VIII
Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision which lifted the de facto moratorium on capital punishment in the United States that had resulted from the decision in Furman v. Georgia (1972). The appellant was Troy Leon Gregg.
The court upheld the constitutionality of Georgia's death penalty laws, which required that juries in capital cases consider all relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a crime in determining whether to impose a death sentence. The general sentiment was that the statutes at issue in Furman were unconstitutional not because the death penalty is cruel and unusual, but because the system by which it was being applied at the time was "arbitrary and capricious." Because the new statutes required the finding of one of several, listed, aggravating circumstances, sentencing was addressed in a bifurcated procedure and were automatically reviewed by the state supreme court (for excessive or unusual sentencing among other concerns), protections had been enacted to prevent such abuses.
The first execution after the ruling was of Utah murderer Gary Gilmore in 1977.
Associate Justices William J. Brennan, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall dissented, arguing that capital punishment was contrary to society's evolving standards of decency, and therefore, inherently incompatible with the Eighth Amendment. Thereafter, the two Justices consistently opposed the death penalty for the remainder of their time on the Court. In every subsequent case relating to the death penalty in which certiorari was denied or where the death penalty was upheld, one of them would write a dissenting opinion arguing that capital punishment was inherently unconstitutional and rejecting the holding of Gregg, and the other would join. Brennan and Marshall were never able to convince any other Justice to agree with them, but in 1994, years after both of them had retired, Harry Blackmun, by then very liberal, adopted the same position.
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