Gregg v. Georgia

Gregg v. Georgia

428 U.S. 153 (1976)

Facts and Procedural History:

Petitioner was sentenced to death for armed robbery and murder of two men in Georgia. On appeal the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed except as to the imposition of a death sentence on robbery charges. The U.S. Supreme court granted certiorari.

Issue Presented to the Court:

Did imposition of death sentence for the crime of murder under the Georgia statute constitute "cruel and unusual" punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Outcome of the Case:

Petitioner argued that the changes in Georgia's sentencing procedures after Furman have not removed the elements of arbitrariness and capriciousness, that the prosecutor's decisions in plea bargaining or in declining to charge capital murder are standardless and will result in the wanton or freakish imposition of the death penalty, and that certain statutory aggravating circumstances are too broad or vague.

The court holds that the punishment of death for the crime of murder does not, under all circumstances, violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Eighth Amendment, according to “evolving standards of decency” forbids the use of punishment that is "excessive" either because it inflicts unnecessary pain or because it is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime. This does not mean, however, that a legislature is required to select the least severe penalty possible and that capital punishment for the crime of murder is invalid per se. Retribution and possibility of deterrence are permissible considerations in determining whether the death penalty should be imposed.

Thus, Georgia’s statutory system under which the punishment and guilt portions of the trial are bifurcated, with the jury hearing additional evidence and argument at the sentence phase, under which jury is instructed on statutory factors of aggravation and mitigation, and under which Georgia Supreme Court performs proportionality reviews, is constitutional.