A ‘ Get Out of Jail Free’ Card

Real Crime - - Death Row Dodger -

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.

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