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Coker v. Georgia

United States Supreme Court
433 U.S. 584 (1977)


Facts

On September 2, 1974, Ehrlich Coker (defendant) escaped from a Georgia prison, where he had been serving time for various felonies, including murder, rape, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. That night, Coker entered the home of Allen and Elnita Carver. Mrs. Carver was sixteen years old. Coker threatened both of them, tied up Mr. Carver, and took Mr. Carver’s money, keys, and a knife from the kitchen. Coker proceeded to rape Mrs. Carver and then drove her away in Mr. Carver’s car. Mr. Carver managed to free himself and alert police, who quickly detained Coker. Coker was charged with a number of offenses, one of which was the rape of Mrs. Carver. Under Georgia law, rape is an offense punishable by death only if there are certain aggravating circumstances, as defined by statute. Accordingly, the jury was instructed that it could consider imposing the death penalty if it found that Coker had a prior conviction for a capital felony or if it found that the rape was committed during the commission of another capital felony. The jury found both aggravating circumstances existed, since Coker had previously been convicted of capital felonies and because the rape occurred during the commission of an armed robbery. The jury sentenced Coker to death for the rape. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Powell, J.)

Dissent (Burger, C.J.)

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