A ‘ Get Out of Jail Free’ Card
An unconnected crime was to save the life of Kenneth McDuff and that of many other murderers
William Henry Furman was in the middle of a burglary when the house owners arrived home and surprised him. Furman tried to run but fell while holding his gun, killing one of the residents. At the trial he claimed that he was attempting to escape and at no point intended to hurt anybody. The Georgia jury didn’t believe him and, after deliberating for 95 minutes, delivered a guilty verdict and an accompanying death sentence.
Such is the wording of the US Constitution that a huge debate rages over how the state- sanctioned power to inflict capital punishment should be undertaken, or if it should be upheld at all. The case of Furman versus Georgia resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that carrying out the death penalty in this case would be a cruel and unusual punishment and, possibly, also in all future cases.
Since capital punishment was now being labelled ‘ unconstitutional’, prisoners soon jumped on the bandwagon, claiming a multitude of civil rights were being flouted within the prison system. An inevitable knee- jerk reaction followed and almost 600 people on death rows across the country had their sentences commuted to life in prison, including Kenneth McDuff.