v. Georgia Court Case (the Supreme Court
reviewed this case and also included the similar cases Gregg v.
Georgia, Jurek v. Texas and Proffitt v. Florida)
The US Supreme Court found the DP laws to be unconstitutional. The laws were deemed cruel and unusual punishment which is in violation of the 8th Amendment of our Constitution: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted ." The Supreme Court felt allowing a jury to decide sentencing could yield arbitrary results which would not be fair to the defendant and amount to "cruel and unusual punishment." To counteract this, states wrote new laws providing sentencing guidelines to the jury and to the judge. "Aggravating" and "mitigating" circumstances were added to crimes to help the juries and judges decide who should get the DP. The DP laws were also found to violate the 14th Amendment, the right to due process. Supreme Court justices believed defendants should not be sentenced to death immediately, during the same deliberations that found them guilty, but should get a separate sentencing phase. The Supreme Court also started the practice of allowing a death sentence an automatic appeal. This helps the state's maintain a fair standard of death sentences by reviewing each DP case in the state's appellate courts.
The Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta “provides legal representation to people facing the death penalty, challenges human rights violations in prisons and jails, seeks through litigation and advocacy to improve legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, and advocates for criminal justice system reforms on behalf of those affected by the system in the Southern United States.” The center focuses on issues of discrimination in the application of the death penalty. Media inquiries should be directed to Kathryn Hamoudah.