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Furman v. Georgia - Significance

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Although Furman v. Georgia did not completely abolish the death penalty, it placed stringent requirements on death penalty statutes.

On the night of 11 August 1967, 29-year-old William Joseph Micke, Jr. came home from work to his wife and five children in the city of Savannah, Georgia. He went to bed around midnight. Two hours later, the Mickes were awakened by strange noises in the kitchen. Thinking that one of his children was sleepwalking, William Micke went into the kitchen to investigate. He found William Henry Furman there, a 26-year-old African American man who had broken into the house and was carrying a gun. Furman fled the house, shooting Micke as he left. The bullet hit Micke in the chest and he died instantly. Micke's family promptly called the police, who arrived on the scene within minutes. The police searched the neighborhood and found Furman, who was still carrying the murder weapon.

Furman was charged with murder and was tried in the Superior Court of Chatham County, Georgia on 20 September 1968. Furman was a poor man, and he got a poor man's trial. His court-appointed lawyer, B. Clarence Mayfield, received the court-approved standard retainer for murder cases: $150, which did not include costs. The trial lasted just one day: the jury was selected at 10:00 a.m., the evidence was presented and the judge's instructions to the jury given by 3:30 p.m., and the jury's guilty verdict was returned at 5:00 p.m.

Long before the trial, the court committed Furman to the Georgia Central State Hospital at Milledgeville for psychological examination. Furman had dropped out of school after the sixth grade, and he tested in the lowest four percent of the test's intelligence range. The hospital diagnosed Furman as being mentally deficient and subject to psychotic episodes. Nevertheless, the court denied Furman's insanity plea at trial.

Furman v. Georgia - Furman Sentenced To Death [next]

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