McGautha v. California

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McGautha v. California
Argued November 9, 1970
Decided May 3, 1971
Full case nameMcGautha v. California
Citations402 U.S. 183 (more)
91 S. Ct. 1454; 28 L. Ed. 2d 711; 1971 U.S. LEXIS 107
(1) Untrammeled discretion of the jury the power to pronounce life or death in capital cases is constitutional.
(2) Having the issues of guilt and punishment resolved in a single trial was constitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
John M. Harlan II · William J. Brennan Jr.
Potter Stewart · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Case opinions
MajorityHarlan, joined by Burger, Stewart, White, Blackmun
DissentDouglas, joined by Brennan, Marshall
DissentBrennan, joined by Douglas, Marshall
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. VIII

McGautha v. California, 402 U.S. 183 (1971), is a criminal case heard by the United States Supreme Court, in which the Court held that the lack of legal standards by which juries imposed the death penalty was not an unconstitutional violation of the due process clause portions of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1]: 467 [2] Justice Harlan wrote that writing rules for jury death penalty decisions was beyond current human ability.[1]: 467  The context was public and philosophical scrutiny of the unequal application of the death penalty, especially in that blacks who killed whites were much more likely to have a death penalty imposed.[1]: 467  McGautha was superseded one year later by Furman v. Georgia.


  1. ^ a b c Criminal Law - Cases and Materials, 7th ed. 2012, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business; John Kaplan, Robert Weisberg, Guyora Binder, ISBN 978-1-4548-0698-1, [1]
  2. ^ Bessler, John (2012). "Tinkering Around the Edges: The Supreme Court's Death Penalty Jurisprudence". American Criminal Law Review. 49: 1913. Retrieved February 22, 2023. In McGautha v. California, the Court first held in 1971 that a jury's imposition of the death penalty without governing standards did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.

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