United States Supreme Court
446 U.S. 420 (1980)
Godfrey (defendant) and his wife split up after repeated domestic arguments, and the wife left to live with her mother. The two had several heated telephone conversations where Godfrey pleaded with his wife to come home and the wife stated that reconciliation was impossible. After the last conversation, Godfrey took a shotgun, walked to the house where his wife was staying, and killed his wife and her mother. He called the sheriff after his actions and admitted everything to the police department. He pleaded not guilty at the trial by reason of temporary insanity, but was convicted of two counts of murder. At sentencing, the judge instructed the jury to consider subsection (b)(7) of Georgia law, which stated that an individual convicted of murder could be sentenced to death if the offense was “outrageous or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman.” This statute was known as the statutory aggravating circumstance statute. After these instructions, the jury sentenced Godfrey to death. Godfrey appealed his sentence to the state supreme court, stating that the jury was incorrect in sentencing him to death because the jury was too arbitrary in its interpretation of the subsection of the statute instructed to them. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the sentence, stating that the jury’s finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance was supported by the evidence and was not arbitrary. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J)
Concurrence (Marshall, J)
Dissent (Burger, C.J.)
Dissent (White, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.
Here's why 200,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 14,000 briefs, keyed to 188 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.