Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department

Legal Studies

Reader 1

Ralph Rossum

Reader 2

Joseph Bessette


In 1972, the Supreme Court heard the case Furman v. Georgia. Through this case and its resulting decision, the Supreme Court overturned the death penalty as it was applied at the time, which had three main consequences:

  1. Everyone on death row had to be re-sentenced to a lesser punishment than the death penalty.
  2. The decision instituted a moratorium on capital punishment.
  3. It made the state and federal governments redraft their capital punishment laws to fix the issue.

In 1976, the Supreme Court heard five cases regarding capital punishment under the new laws drafted by the states. Three of these laws were upheld, which reestablished capital punishment in the United States. In this paper, I will discuss how capital punishment was first abolished. I will also discuss how it was reinstated and what changes needed to be made for the death penalty not to violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. I will also discuss different interpretations of the Eighth Amendment and how the principle, established in Trop v. Dulles, of “evolving standards of decency” became the standard practice for interpreting the Eighth Amendment. Finally, I will analyze how the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence met the burden it established for itself in Furman v. Georgia.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.