Furman v. Georgia (1972) Definition

A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the death penalty, as applied in Georgia and Texas, was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution because the states imposed it in an arbitrary—and sometimes racially biased—manner. The Court also ruled that the death penalty could not be imposed for rape. Because other death-penalty states had laws and practices similar to those in Georgia and Texas, Furman effectively imposed a nationwide moratorium on the death penalty. All then-pending death sentences were reduced to life imprisonment.

After Furman, states rewrote their death penalty laws to address the Court's concerns. In Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), the court upheld revised death penalty laws, ending the nationwide moratorium on capital punishment.