100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.
The (Temporary) Abolition of the Death Penalty
“The Gun Went Off and I Didn't Know Nothing about no Murder …”
Furman v. Georgia
408 U.S. 346 (1972)
William H. Furman appealed his conviction for murder and the accompanying death sentence in a case that led to the temporary abolition of capital punishment in the United States. Furman's was the lead case of three challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty. In 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional when administered in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner. The Court did not, however, rule that capital punishment per se was “cruel and unusual,” leaving the door open for states to reinstate capital punishment if they enacted new laws and procedures to prevent its arbitrary ...