In 1972 the US Supreme Court rules in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty as implemented by the State of Georgia where the jury has complete discretion to decide death or life in prison is unconstitutional. The result being that all death penalty statutes in all states were struck down. This removed 629 inmates from death rows throughout the country.
The US Supreme Court rules in 1976 through two cases, Gregg v. George and Jurek v. Texas that a death sentence is not a per se violation of the 8th Amendment.
In 1977 Gary Gilmore becomes the first person executed in the United States in ten years. Gary Gilmore is executed in Utah by a firing squad.
In 1977 the Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia that a death sentence for the crime of rape where death does not result is disproportionate and violates the Eighth Amendments prohibition against 'cruel and unusual punishments.'
In 1979 John Spenkelink is the second person executed in twelve years. Florida executes him in the electric chair.
1982 Texas executes Charles Brooks by lethal injection. This is the first execution by lethal injection.
1984 In North Carolina, Velma Barfield becomes the first woman to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty.
1985 the US Supreme Court rules in Ford v. Wainright that it is unconstitutional to execute the insane.
1987 the Supreme Court rules in Thompson v. Oklahoma that a death sentence may not be imposed on someone for a murder committed when they are 15 years old.
1989 the US Supreme Court rules in Stanford v. Kentucky that the Constitution does not prohibit the execution of 16 year olds who are convicted of murder and are sentenced to death.
1989 the US Supreme Court rules in Penry v. Lynaugh that executing mentally retarded people does not violate the Eighth Amendment.
1993 Westley Dodd becomes the first person in decades to be executed by hanging. He is hanged by the state of Washington.
1997 Timothy McVeigh becomes the 13th inmate on the federal death row.
1998 Karla Faye Tucker is executed by the state of Texas.
1999 sees the completion of the new lethal injection chamber at the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. All of the federal death row prisoners are moved there.
2000 Frank Lee Smith who spent 14 years on death row in Florida and who died there of cancer is posthumously cleared by DNA evidence.
2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan declares a moratorium on implementing the death penalty after a series of events and publicity shows severe problems in the process.
2001 in June of that year Timothy McVeigh becomes the first federal prisoner to be executed since 1963.
2001 Georgia's Supreme Court rules that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment. Georgia switches over to lethal injection.
2002 April, Ray Krone is released from Arizona prison after DNA proves his innocence. He had been sentenced to death in 1992
2002 May, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening imposes a moratorium on executions.
June 2002 the US Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia rules that execution of the mentally retarded is cruel and unusual punishment. This reverses the Penry v. Lynaugh decision of 1989
2002 October, serial killer Aileen Wuornos is executed by the state of Florida.
2003, January, Governor George Ryan commutes all 167 condemned men on Illinois death row.
A good friend lost
As happens once in a while, a friend from a few years back contacts me to catch up, touch base, say hello. My website and my listing in the alumni page at the University of Dayton School of Law leave a trail there for anyone who might care to find me and speak with me. Careful planning makes it so, unfortunately and for a number of reasons I don't often try to find old friends and old classmates. A Nexus search, a run through Google or a look through the alumni directory would be sufficient for me to find anyone I would desire to find but I don't do it. There is always time. Time sometime later to make that small effort. So as a result I don't look up people. There is always time right? Yah. Well a friend of mine, Marc did take the time to look me up and it was good to hear from him. In our emails back and forth he mentions a fellow classmate, Andy Johnson or as was the running joke for us "Andy's Johnson."
Andy was a tall, gangly fellow with the disposition of a puppy. We'd constantly make our "Andy's Johnson," clever remarks and he'd smile and never took offense and we never meant any. He was a fellow who seemed not to have a hostile bone in his body and it seemed to me that it would never occur to him to say a bad word about anyone. When he would talk it seemed like he was always laughing even when he wasn't. A smile on his face and he'd always be genuinely glad to see you. When he would tell a joke it was like he was a little kid saying something he knew that grownups would disapprove of so his jokes or something funny were told only after he looked around to make sure that someone who might take offense would be out of earshot.
At the end of a long hard week in class he'd come down to
the local watering hole that some of us had taken as our own. BW3's on
Friday after class was where we would grab some hot wings, some happy
hour beer and we'd pull some tables together, enough to accommodate however
many of us would show up. Andy would laugh with us and we'd talk about
what funny things happened in class. Sometimes he'd get a bit excited,
a beer or two down the evening and when he wanted to say something and
his words were tripping around on his tongue his eyes would sparkle and
the smile on his face would broaden as if to acknowledge that he thought
he was being a bit foolish or silly. But we would slap him on his back,
laugh at his jokes and generally do the things that friends would do with
each other as we recognize everyone who would want to be in the conversation
and who would likewise have a patience and joy with us.
There is no question in my mind that life is not fair. Evil people live and prosper, good people who struggle and fight to get ahead in life die in car accidents. Life is short and brutish and it's a sack full of misery, pain, horror and suffering. A person like Andy makes you almost believe that isn't true, his warm smile and good heart carved a bit of hope and kindness into the world and he will be missed.