“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
Georgia's first recorded execution took place in 1735. Up until the 1920s, executions were carried out by hanging, firing squad, or burning at the stake. Electrocution quickly became the state’s primary execution method in 1924, remaining so until 2001 when the state Supreme Court declared the practice a 'cruel and unusual punishment.' After this decision, the state converted to using lethal injection.
One of Georgia’s death row cases, Furman v. Georgia (1972), has played a significant role not only in Georgia, but in the nation's death penalty law as well. In 1972, the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court – in a 5-4 ruling – declared that Georgia’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional because of the real danger of arbitrary sentences of death being handed down by a jury trial.
The declaration of the state’s death penalty as “cruel and unusual punishment” effectively voided a total of 40 states’ statutes – commuting the sentences of 629 individuals on death row around the country. Although the U.S. Supreme Court later reinstated the constitutionality of the death penalty in 1976, the Furman case helped restrict the number and types of capital crimes in U.S. law.
Before 1976, Georgia carried out 950 executions, the fourth-highest number of any state. There have been 75 executions in Georgia since reinstatement of the state death penalty in 1976.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
The Georgia Catholic Conference witnesses to spiritual values in public affairs, and provides an agency for corporate Catholic service to the statewide community. Under the direction of the Catholic bishops of Georgia, the Conference promotes public policy positions related to Georgia governmental programs, legislation and policies which affect the common good.
Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty is the statewide coalition of concerned organizations and individuals working for greater fairness in Georgia’s criminal justice system and an end to capital punishment.
The Southern Center for Human Rights was founded in 1976 by ministers and activists concerned about criminal justice issues in response to the Supreme Court's reinstatement of the death penalty that year and to the horrendous conditions in Southern prisons and jails. In addition to providing representation to people facing the death penalty, SCHR employs class action lawsuits and individual representation in challenging unconstitutional and unconscionable practices within the criminal justice system.