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. 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, including the rape of Mrs. Carver. Under Georgia law, rape was an offense punishable by death if accompanied by 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 that both aggravating circumstances existed, because 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.