The Supreme Court held that capital punishment as commonly practiced in 1972 constituted cruel and unusual punishment and thus violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
By the late 1960’s the majority of Americans opposed the death penalty. The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People led a legal crusade aimed at either reforming or eliminating the use of executions. In McGautha v. California
A majority of five justices endorsed a short per curiam opinion overturning the death penalty statute of Georgia, but there was no opinion for the majority. In fact, all nine justices wrote separate opinions, totaling some 243 pages. Only two justices William J. Brennan, Jr.,
Following the Furman decision, thirty-five state legislatures rewrote their capital punishment statutes in an attempt to satisfy the Court’s concerns. Many observers speculated that the Court would probably not approve of the revisions. In Gregg v. Georgia
Cruel and unusual punishment
Gregg v. Georgia
Legal Defense Fund, NAACP