Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
In 2021, across the world, it is recorded that 53 countries still use the death penalty as a form of ultimate punishment for their most heinous crimes. In the 1950s and 60s, a worldwide trend was set as public uproar about the death penalty formed and many governments abolished the death penalty for good.
To date, 107 countries have abolished the death penalty including most of the western world. In America, there are still many states that have the death penalty instated as a legal form of punishment. However, the use of it is in decline, as a lot of these states only use it as an absolute last resort.
Formally known as capital punishment here in the US, at present, the death penalty is legal in 24 of the 50 formed states. California, Oregon, and Pennsylvania currently have Governor-imposed moratoriums in place. This means no inmate on death row can be executed while these state Governors are in power. To see where the state of Georgia fits into all of this, this article has been put together to showcase the history and current state of play of capital punishment in Georgia.
Does Georgia Have the Death Penalty?
Bar a brief spell between the years 1972 and 1973, The death penalty has been a legal penalty in the U.S state of Georgia. The three offenses for which the death penalty can, and will, be carried out if a court of law deems the crime worthy are treason, aircraft hijacking, and murder.
However, it’s not just any murder that automatically qualifies a convicted felon for the death penalty. Below is a list that features each of the aggravating circumstances for which a murder case may end in capital punishment for the offender:
- The person has previously been convicted of a capital crime
- The person was in the action of committing a capital felony at the time of the murder
- The felony was carried out while committing arson in the first degree or burglary in any degree
- The person actively engaged in an act that created an unacceptable risk of death to multiple people in public with the use of a weapon or other such device. A device or weapon that would be regarded as hazardous to more than one person’s life.
- The person committed the murder with the ambition of accepting money or another item or thing of monetary value.
- The person committed the murder on a judicial officer (former or present), solicitor-general, district-attorney (former or present), or solicitor who was carrying out their official and approved duties.
- The offender gave a direct order for another person to commit the felony as an employee or agent under themselves or another person.
- The felony was particularly grotesque, inhuman, engaged in torture, required a depraved mind to commit, or an excessive amount of battery to the victim had occurred.
- The felony had been carried out against a corrections officer, firefighter, or any officer of the peace while they performed his/ her duties as an official officer.
- The person had carried out the act after having escaped from the lawful custody of an officer of the peace or a place of lawful confinement.
- The person has committed the murder while purposefully avoiding, interfering with the lawful arrest of themselves or another person.
- The murder has been taken place by a person who had previously been convicted for such despicable crimes as sodomy, rape, aggravated child molestation, or sexual battery.
- The felony of murder was acted upon in a domestic case of terrorism.
History of the Death Penalty in Georgia
The first execution that was officially recorded in the state of Georgia happened in 1735. Alice Riley was an indentured servant who murdered her master. From this first execution up until the year 1924, the approved method of execution in Georgia was by hanging. However, outlawed hangings still took place up until 1931 when they were dispelled for good. From 1735 to 1931 it has been documented that over 500 hangings took place in Georgia.
Since hanging was outlawed in August 1924 by the Georgia General Assembly, the approved method of execution from this date up until the highly publicized Furman v. Georgia case was death by electrocution. This case, in which William Henry Furman went under oath to tell the court that, while fleeing an attempted burglary gone wrong, he tripped and accidentally fired a shot which killed the homeowner – William Micke.
In huge controversy, the state of Georgia sentenced Furman to death by electrocution for the murder. However, the sentence was overturned by the supreme court under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. This created a ripple effect across many states of America that, thereafter, deemed capital punishment unconstitutional and since, have not re-instated it.
Although in the case of the state of Georgia, electrocution was re-instated in 1976 by cause of the Gregg v. Georgia case. The death penalty has, therefore, been an active form of punishment in Georgia since. Lethal injection became in the new means of capital punishment in 2001. The General Assembly passed this law on the grounds that lethal injection was a more humane means of capital punishment.
Since being first introduced in 1735, there have been 1022 recorded executions in the state of Georgia. This is the fifth-highest total across the country, behind states like Texas and Oklahoma. There are currently 38 men and 1 woman on death row awaiting execution in Georgia.
In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre, it is believed that 6 out of 10 American adults either strongly or somewhat favor the death penalty for convicted murderers. This belief has been proven to be influenced by such factors as a political party, religion, education, and race. Although the death penalty is still a legal form of punishment in 24 states, the amount of death penalties that are being carried out has dropped significantly.
Even in states like Georgia that have had a long and complicated history with capital punishment, this number is dropping. The average time between sentencing and execution has increased sharply since the 1980s as well. Hopefully, this article has offered you a thorough understanding of the history of the death penalty in Georgia, America, and beyond.