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Gregg v. Georgia

(1976)

Supreme Court of the United States - 428 U.S. 153

tl;dr:

The death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

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Facts & HoldingGregg v. Georgia case brief facts & holding

Facts:Gregg was convicted on two counts of armed robbery and...

Holding:The Court held that, with careful sentencing guidelines, the death...

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Gregg v. Georgia | Case Brief DeepDive
Majority opinion, author: Mr. Justice Stewart, Mr. Justice Powell, and Mr. Justice Stevens, announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.
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The legal case examines whether the death penalty for murder in Georgia violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The court rules that the death penalty is not always unconstitutional, but it must not involve unnecessary pain and must be proportionate to the severity of the crime. The decision to impose the death penalty must be based on the circumstances of the offense and the characteristics of the offender. A well-crafted statute that provides guidance to the sentencing authority can address concerns regarding arbitrary or capricious imposition of the death penalty. Georgia's new sentencing procedures require specific jury findings before imposing the death penalty, and the Supreme Court of Georgia compares each death sentence with those imposed on similarly situated defendants to ensure proportionality.

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Opinion (Concurrence), author: Mr. Justice White
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The case concerns the constitutionality of Georgia's death penalty statute, which allows for a sentence of death or life imprisonment if the jury unanimously finds at least one of eight aggravating circumstances. The Georgia Supreme Court reviews every death penalty case to ensure no influence of passion or prejudice, evidence supports the finding of an aggravating circumstance, and the sentence is not excessive. The petitioner, Troy Gregg, was convicted of murdering two men during a robbery and sentenced to death. The trial judge refused to submit the lesser included offense of manslaughter to the jury. The prosecutor emphasized the strength of the case and the defense suggested the possibility of a mistake during the sentencing proceeding. The judge instructed the jury on their sentencing function and submitted three statutory aggravating circumstances.

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Opinion (Concurrence), author: Mr. Justice Blackmun
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The judge agrees with the decision made in this case, but disagrees with a similar case from 1972. Other judges also disagreed with the 1972 case.

Dissenting opinion, author: Mr. Justice Brennan
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Justice Brennan's dissenting opinion in a death penalty case argues that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause should be interpreted based on evolving societal standards of decency, with a focus on the essence of the death penalty itself rather than just the procedures used to impose it. The controversy surrounding the death penalty in the US is rooted in moral arguments and the conflict between retribution and vengeance versus the democratic movement's emphasis on individual dignity. The Clause reflects moral principles that limit the types of punishments that can be imposed, and the evolution of moral concepts and standards of decency have shaped the progress of the law.

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Dissenting opinion, author: Mr. Justice Marshall
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Justice Marshall dissents from the majority's decision that the death penalty is constitutional under the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. He argues that the death penalty is excessive and morally unacceptable, and that its constitutionality should not be based solely on the opinion of the public. He notes that the only legitimate purposes for the death penalty are general deterrence and retribution, but the available evidence does not support a correlation between the existence of capital punishment and lower rates of capital crime. He briefly discusses the significance of a scientific study that suggests a deterrent effect of the death penalty, but notes that critics have raised concerns about the study's methods and conclusions.

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