Georgia has executions recorded as early as 1735. The last public execution in Georgia took place in 1893. Up until the 1920s, executions were generally carried out by hanging, in addition to execution by firing squad and burning at the stake. Electrocution quickly became the state’s primary execution method in 1924, remaining so until 2001 when the Georgia Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment, after which Georgia converted to using lethal injection.
One of Georgia’s death row cases, Furman v. Georgia, has played a significant role not only in Georgia, but in U.S. death penalty law as well. In 1972, after the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court, in a 5-4 ruling, declared that Georgia’s death penalty statue 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’ statues, commuting the sentences of 629 death row inmates 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 66 executions in Georgia since reinstatement of the state death penalty in 1973.
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.