Mandatory Death Sentences Are Struck Down

1976

In Woodson v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court finds unconstitutional a North Carolina law making the death penalty mandatory whenever a defendant is convicted of first-degree murder. The Court rules that in light of the shaky public support for the death penalty, and the absolute nature of the punishment, “fundamental respect for humanity” demands that juries have discretion to consider all “aggravating” and “mitigating” factors, and to impose a different penalty if they find it appropriate.