|← Understanding Deviance||The 1984 United States Sentencing Commission →|
The court cases critiqued by this paper points to one thing; that the death penalty in the country is “color blind.” The death penalty seems to be the preserve of the blacks, the poor, the uneducated and the mentally-ill. Preferential treatment is accorded to the whites, mentally healthy, the wealthy, and the educated as far as the death penalty is concerned. The random, unfair, racial application of the death penalty makes its application to be unusual and cruel.
William Henry Furman was black (African American), poor, and mentally ill (Roensch, 2007). Although Georgia Central State Hospital found him mentally ill and psychotic, he was still taken on trail and sentenced to death in a record one-day trial. Usually murder cases are complicated and drag for ages. The mentally ill Furman had shot William Joseph Micke Jr., a white man, accidentally when he found him in his kitchen. On appeal, the law on death penalty was found to be cruel and unfair in oppressing unpopular groups and races especially the black race.
Four years down the line, in a similar case of Gregg v. Georgia (1976), the court upheld the decision to sentence Troy Gregg to death (Coenen, 2004). The court held that the sentence had not violated the constitution in the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Majority of the states have adopted this later sentence in declaring that the death sentence is not cruel and unusual even in cases where it is arbitrary enforced on unpopular groups especially the blacks and people of the color. Therefore, the death sentence law is racial in application especially considering these two cases where the later broke the earlier precedence to sentence Gregg to a death penalty.