Gregg v. Georgia at 40: The Past, Present, and Future of the American Death Penalty
Paul Kaplan, San Diego State University
Evan Mandery, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
Sara Mayeux, University of Pennsylvania
Keramet Reiter, University of California, Irvine
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court temporarily ruled the American death penalty unconstitutional. States’ processes of sentencing capital defendants to death, the justices ruled, were prone to arbitrary outcomes and thus unconstitutionally unfair. State legislatures immediately set to work to fix the problem, and four years later the Court approved new sentencing statutes in Gregg v. Georgia, inaugurating a new era in the history of the American death penalty. Since then, thousands of Americans have been sentenced to death and nearly 1,500 have been executed. The use and popularity of the death penalty, however, have declined dramatically in recent years. Some have argued that capital punishment, which enjoyed the support of 80% of Americans at the height of its popularity in the 1990s, is once again dying. Participants in this roundtable discussion will explore the historical context of the Gregg decision and assess the role it has played in shaping the legal, cultural, and political life of the death penalty in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.