The Death Penalty: Furman V. Georgia

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The Death Penalty is a highly contested issue in the United States that has been put forth to the Supreme Court many times. The Court operated under the assumption that is due process is observed, life can be taken from an individual. However, the court 's opinion of the death penalty has changed over time. In 1972, the Court considered Furman v. Georgia, a case involving a white man who murdered a black man. At the time, the state of Georgia allowed the trial jury to decide whether the accused should be sentenced to death if convicted. This, predictably, led to racial disparities, as blacks were more likely to be given the death penalty. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund argued that this disparity violated due process and was there …show more content…
Wainwright (1986). A Florida Court sentenced Alvin Ford to death for first degree murder. During the murder, trial, and sentencing, Ford exhibited no indications of mental illness. However, while waiting for his execution, his mental state diminished. The Supreme Court then found that it is cruel and unusual to impose the death penalty on the mentally ill. This is specifically apt when considering Smith’s case because he was not mentally ill during the before, yet he does suffer from mental illness. If applying Ford to Smith’s case, then his sentence should be vacated, as his mental capacity could diminish and he could not be aware of his punishment of the reason for him receiving it. Atkins v. Virginia (2002) also concerned the use of the death penalty on those who are not mentally competent. Daryl Atkins was convicted and sentenced to death for abduction, armed robbery, and capital murder. However, he was intellectually disabled and the Court found that his execution would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment. In Roper v. Simmons (2005), the Supreme Court also ruled that executing minors constitutes as cruel and unusual …show more content…
Though he chose not to take his medicine, he was not competent during the crime itself. Based on the decisions in Furman and Gregg, his execution could violate due process. He was not afforded a bifurcated trail and therefore the jury could have sentenced him to the death penalty on basis of discrimination against the mentally ill. The jury found that he was culpable because he chose not to take his medicine, yet psychiatric medicine is not always affective. Also, his history of mental illness means that he could have had a psychotic episode at some point. AS such, he is susceptible to mental illness while waiting for his execution and would not be component enough during his execution to understand the punishment, I would argue that he was not lucid enough during the crime to understand his punishment. Also, because he has a diminished capacity in general, based on the case laws in Ford, Atkins, and Roper, executing him would be considered cruel and

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