"[...] Rape in the common law was a capital offense and it is only the result of Coker v. Georgia [...]"

Coker v. Georgia

Coker v. Georgia
Public DomainCoker v. Georgia

In 1977, Erlich Anthony Coker escaped from jail and proceeded to break into the house of a husband and wife. Not only did he commit robbery, but he raped the wife as well. The Georgia judicial system found him guilty of rape, armed robbery, and several other offenses and sentenced him to death. They justified their decision because he had been previously convicted of capital felonies and he committed the rape while committing another capital felony, the armed robbery.  The question of constitutionality then arose. During the case Coker v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that it was in fact unconstitutional for Coker to be sentenced to death; they supported their decision with the 8th Amendment. The punishment in the case of Coker was considered excessive because it was grossly out of proportion with the severity of the crime. The significance of the outcome of this case was the main use of capital punishment being restricted to murder. In Picking Cotton, the case is referenced by the judge to make it clear to Moseley that Ronald Cotton's crime was severe regardless of whether or not he had intentions of killing Jennifer Thompson.

Submitted by student author, Kristin Karas