The Law: Death Dealing

In the 1972 case of Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court dealt a staggering but not quite final blow to the death penalty in the U.S. Though all nine Justices wrote separate opinions, the sum controlling view appeared to be that most capital-punishment sentences were cruel and unusual because those few who faced the penalty were singled out in a "freakish," "arbitrary" and "capricious" manner. Supporters of capital punishment concluded that one way around the court's ruling would be to make death the mandated penalty for such crimes as first-degree murder and first-degree rape. Next Monday the Justices will hear oral...

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