Furman v. Georgia (1972)
Before 1972 Georgia and other states that provided for capital punishment used systems that gave juries broad discretion in deciding whether to impose the death penalty on persons convicted of death-eligible offenses. In Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this feature of Georgia's capital sentencing scheme and in effect invalidated the death penalty, as then administered, throughout the United States.
In a dissenting opinion joined by four members of the Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger argued that, while "the Eighth Amendment forbids the imposition of punishments that are so cruel and inhumane as to violate society's standards of civilized conduct," the amendment "most assuredly does not speak to the power of legislatures to confer sentencing discretion on juries." In his view a long history of acceptance, the legal system's "basic trust in lay jurors," and "the primacy of the legislative role" in fixing criminal punishments rendered the death penalty constitutional, even when imposed pursuant to unguided-discretion sentencing schemes.