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In 1972, the United States Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia responded to attacks on the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, and ruled that the Georgia death penalty statute was unconstitutional as it was being applied.2 Consequently, the Supreme Court of Ohio, in State v. Leigh, ruled that the infliction of any death penalty under the then existing Ohio capital sentencing statute was unconstitutional.

After much criticism of the Furman decision, Congress and the majority of states responded by passing new death penalty statutes. Ohio's version is found at Ohio Revised Code section 2929.021 which prescribes the death penalty or life imprisonment for the crime of aggravated murder. New cases testing post-Furman statutes caused the United States Supreme Court to take a definitive stand on the constitutionality of capital punishment. In July of 1976 the Court handed down had been challenged as inherently "cruel and unusual punishment." In Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court, for the first time, addressed the issue whether the death penalty is constitutionally prohibited in all cases. In a seven-to-two decision, the Court stated that "the death penalty is not a form of punishment that may never be imposed.” In the Gregg decision and the four other accompanying decisions, Proffitt v. Florida, Jurek v. Texas, Woodson v. North Carolina, and Roberts v. Louisiana, the Court also elucidated what elements of these particular state death statutes made them constitutional or unconstitutional. The purpose of this comment is to analyze the Ohio statutory scheme in light of the constitutional standards established by these post-Furman decisions.

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