GREGG V. GEORGIA
GILMORE’S FATE WAS SEALED UPON THE JURY’S DECISION, BUT HAD HIS CONVICTION ARRIVED A MATTER OF WEEKS EARLIER, HE MIGHT STILL BE ALIVE TODAY
A little more than two weeks before Gilmore killed his first victim, the Supreme Court of the United States made a decision in the criminal case of Gregg V. Georgia that would ultimately seal Gilmore’s fate following his trial for murder. Since 1968 a national moratorium on capital punishment had been enforced, and in 1972 the Furman V. Georgia case was heard. Convicted felon William Henry Furman had, according to his own statement, accidentally shot his victim William Micke during a home invasion in Georgia. After a one- day trial the jury found the defendant – an “emotionally disturbed and mentally impaired” individual – guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.
However, under the Eighth Amendment, Furman’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison. In several states, a death penalty statute was soon instataed that required a separate, ‘ bifurcated’ trial to proceed in order to decide the punishment in a capital case after the establishment of guilt. As well as a list of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, those found guilty would also be subject to a review by the Supreme Court before the death penalty could be handed down.
Four years after the landmark Furman decision, on 31 March 1976 double killer
Troy Leon Gregg was before the courts pleading for his life. He had killed two men who had offered the hitchhiker a lift the previous November. Unlike the many that had stood before the courts following the Furman ruling, the Supreme Court this time decided that the death penalty would be reinstated and Gregg would be put to death. The end of the moratorium came just three months before Gilmore was convicted.