Coker v. Georgia


No. 75-5444 Argued: March 28, 1977 --- Decided: June 29, 1977
MR. JUSTICE WHITE announced the judgment of the Court and filed an opinion in which MR. JUSTICE STEWART, MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, joined.

Georgia Code Ann. § 26-2001 (1972) provides that

[a] person convicted of rape shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for life, or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years. [n1]

Punishment is determined by a jury in a separate sentencing proceeding in which at least one of the statutory aggravating circumstances must be found before the death penalty may be imposed. [n2] Petitioner Coker was convicted of rape and sentenced to death. Both the conviction and the sentence were affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court. Coker was granted a writ of certiorari, 429 U.S. 815, limited to the single claim, rejected by the Georgia court, that the punishment of death for rape violates the Eighth Amendment, which proscribes "cruel and unusual punishments" and which must be observed by the States as well as the Federal Government. Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962). [p587]

While serving various sentences for murder, rape, kidnaping, and aggravated assault, petitioner escaped from the Ware Correctional Institution near Waycross, Ga. on September 2, 1974. At approximately 11 o'clock that night, petitioner entered the house of Allen and Elnita Carver through an unlocked kitchen door. Threatening the couple with a "board," he tied up Mr. Carver in the bathroom, obtained a knife from the kitchen, and took Mr. Carver's money and the keys to the family car. Brandishing the knife and saying "you know what's going to happen to you if you try anything, don't you," Coker then raped Mrs. Carver. Soon thereafter, petitioner drove away in the Carver car, taking Mrs. Carver with him. Mr. Carver, freeing himself, notified the police; and not long thereafter petitioner was apprehended. Mrs. Carver was unharmed.

Petitioner was charged with escape, armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnaping, and rape. Counsel was appointed to represent him. Having been found competent to stand trial, he was tried. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, rejecting his general plea of insanity. A sentencing hearing was then conducted in accordance with the procedures dealt with at length in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), where this Court sustained the death penalty for murder when imposed pursuant to the statutory procedures. [n3] The jury was [p588] instructed that it could consider as aggravating circumstances whether the rape had been committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a capital felony and whether the rape [p589] had been committed in the course of committing another capital felony, namely, the armed robbery of Allen Carver. The court also instructed, pursuant to statute, that, even if [p590] aggravating circumstances were present, the death penalty need not be imposed if the jury found they were outweighed by mitigating circumstance, that is, circumstances not constituting justification or excuse for the offense in question, [p591] "but which, in fairness and mercy, may be considered as extenuating or reducing the degree" of moral culpability or punishment. App. 300. The jury's verdict on the rape count was death by electrocution. Both aggravating circumstances on which the court instructed were found to be present by the jury.


Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), and the Court's decisions last Term in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976); Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976); Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262 (1976); Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976); and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), make unnecessary the recanvassing of certain critical aspects of the controversy about the constitutionality of capital punishment. It is now settled that the death penalty is not invariably cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment; it is not inherently barbaric or an unacceptable mode of punishment for crime; neither is it always disproportionate to the crime for which it is imposed. It is also established that imposing capital punishment, at least for murder, in accordance with the procedures provided under the Georgia statutes saves the sentence from the infirmities which led the Court to invalidate the prior Georgia capital punishment statute in Furman v. Georgia, supra.

In sustaining the imposition of the death penalty in Gregg, [p592] however, the Court firmly embraced the holdings and dicta from prior cases, Furman v. Georgia, supra; Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958); and Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349 (1910), to the effect that the Eighth Amendment bars not only those punishments that are "barbaric," but also those that are "excessive" in relation to the crime committed. Under Gregg, a punishment is "excessive" and unconstitutional if it (1) makes no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment, and hence is nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering; or (2) is grossly out of proportion to the severity of the crime. A punishment might fail the test on either ground. Furthermore, these Eighth Amendment judgments should not be, or appear to be, merely the subjective views of individual Justices; judgment should be informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent. To this end, attention must be given to the public attitudes concerning a particular sentence history and precedent, legislative attitudes, and the response of juries reflected in their sentencing decisions are to be consulted. In Gregg, after giving due regard to such sources, the Court's judgment was that the death penalty for deliberate murder was neither the purposeless imposition of severe punishment nor a punishment grossly disproportionate to the crime. But the Court reserved the question of the constitutionality of the death penalty when imposed for other crimes. 428 U.S. at 187 n. 35.


That question, with respect to rape of an adult woman, is now before us. We have concluded that a sentence of death is grossly disproportionate and excessive punishment for the crime of rape, and is therefore forbidden by the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment. [n4] [p593]


As advised by recent cases, we seek guidance in history and from the objective evidence of the country's present judgment concerning the acceptability of death as a penalty for rape of an adult woman. At no time in the last 50 years have a majority of the States authorized death as a punishment for rape. In 1925, 18 States, the District of Columbia, and the Federal Government authorized capital punishment for the rape of an adult female. [n5] By 1971, just prior to the decision in Furman v. Georgia, that number had declined, but not substantially, to 16 States plus the Federal Government. [n6] Furman then invalidated most of the capital punishment statutes in this country, including the rape statutes, because, among other reasons, of the manner in which the death penalty was imposed and utilized under those laws.

With their death penalty statutes for the most part invalidated, the States were faced with the choice of enacting modified capital punishment laws in an attempt to satisfy the requirements of Furman or of being satisfied with life imprisonment as the ultimate punishment for any offense. Thirty-five [p594] States immediately reinstituted the death penalty for at least limited kinds of crime. Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. at 179 n. 23. This public judgment as to the acceptability of capital punishment, evidenced by the immediate, post-Furman legislative reaction in a large majority of the States, heavily influenced the Court to sustain the death penalty for murder in Gregg v. Georgia, supra at 179-182.

But if the "most marked indication of society's endorsement of the death penalty for murder is the legislative response to Furman," Gregg v. Georgia, supra at 179-180, it should also be a telling datum that the public judgment with respect to rape, as reflected in the statutes providing the punishment for that crime, has been dramatically different. In reviving death penalty laws to satisfy Furman's mandate, none of the States that had not previously authorized death for rape chose to include rape among capital felonies. Of the 16 States in which rape had been a capital offense, only three provided the death penalty for rape of an adult woman in their revised statute -- Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana. In the latter two States, the death penalty was mandatory for those found guilty, and those laws were invalidated by Woodson and Roberts. When Louisiana and North Carolina, responding to those decisions, again revised their capital punishment laws, they reenacted the death penalty for murder but not for rape; none of the seven other legislatures that to our knowledge have amended or replaced their death penalty statutes since July 2, 1976, including four States (in addition to Louisiana and North Carolina) that had authorized the death sentence for rape prior to 1972 and had reacted to Furman with mandatory statutes, included rape among the crimes for which death was an authorized punishment. [n7] [p595]

Georgia argues that 11 of the 16 States that authorized death for rape in 1972 attempted to comply with Furman by enacting arguably mandatory death penalty legislation, and that it is very likely that, aside from Louisiana and North Carolina, these States simply chose to eliminate rape as a capital offense rather than to require death for each and every instance of rape. [n8] The argument is not without force, but 4 of the 16 States did not take the mandatory course, and also did not continue rape of an adult woman as a capital offense. Further, as we have indicated, the legislatures of 6 of the 11 arguably mandatory States have revised their death penalty laws since Woodson and Roberts without enacting a new death penalty for rape. And this is to say nothing of 19 other States that enacted nonmandatory, post-Furman statutes and chose not to sentence rapists to death.

It should be noted that Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee also authorized the death penalty in some rape cases, but only where the victim was a child and the rapist an adult. [n9] The Tennessee statute has since been invalidated because the death sentence was mandatory. Collins v. State, 550 S.W.2d 643 (Tenn 1977). The upshot is that Georgia is the sole jurisdiction [p596] in the United States at the present time that authorizes a sentence of death when the rape victim is an adult woman, and only two other jurisdictions provide capital punishment when the victim is a child.

The current judgment with respect to the death penalty for rape is not wholly unanimous among state legislatures, but it obviously weighs very heavily on the side of rejecting capital punishment as a suitable penalty for raping an adult woman. [n10]


It was also observed in Gregg that "[t]he jury . . . is a significant and reliable objective index of contemporary values because it is so directly involved," 428 U.S. at 181, and that it is thus important to look to the sentencing decisions that juries have made in the course of assessing whether capital punishment is an appropriate penalty for the crime being tried. Of course, the jury's judgment is meaningful only where the jury has an appropriate measure of choice as to whether the death penalty is to be imposed. As far as execution for rape is concerned, this is now true only in Georgia and in Florida; and in the latter State, capital punishment is authorized only for the rape of children.

According to the factual submissions in this Court, out of all rape convictions in Georgia since 1973 -- and that total number has not been tendered -- 63 cases had been reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court as of the time of oral argument; and of these, 6 involved a death sentence, 1 of which was set aside, leaving 5 convicted rapists now under sentence [p597] of death in the State of Georgia. Georgia juries have thus sentenced rapists to death six times since 1973. This obviously is not a negligible number; and the State argues that, as a practical matter, juries simply reserve the extreme sanction for extreme cases of rape, and that recent experience surely does not prove that jurors consider the death penalty to be a disproportionate punishment for every conceivable instance of rape, no matter how aggravated. Nevertheless, it is true that, in the vast majority of cases, at least 9 out of 10, juries have not imposed the death sentence.


These recent events evidencing the attitude of state legislatures and sentencing juries do not wholly determine this controversy, for the Constitution contemplates that, in the end, our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, the legislative rejection of capital punishment for rape strongly confirms our own judgment, which is that death is indeed a disproportionate penalty for the crime of raping an adult woman.

We do not discount the seriousness of rape as a crime. It is highly reprehensible, both in a moral sense and in its almost total contempt for the personal integrity and autonomy of the female victim and for the latter's privilege of choosing those with whom intimate relationships are to be established. Short of homicide, it is the "ultimate violation of self." [n11] It is also a violent crime because it normally involves force, or the threat of force or intimidation, to overcome the will and the capacity of the victim to resist. Rape is very often accompanied [p598] by physical injury to the female and can also inflict mental and psychological damage. [n12] Because it undermines the community's sense of security, there is public injury as well.

Rape is without doubt deserving of serious punishment; but in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public, it does not compare with murder, which does involve the unjustified taking of human life. Although it may be accompanied by another crime, rape, by definition, does not include the death of or even the serious injury to another person. [n13] The murderer kills; the rapist, if no more than that, does not. Life is over for the victim of the murderer; for the rape victim, life may not be nearly so happy as it was, but it is not over, and normally is not beyond repair. We have the abiding conviction that the death penalty, which "is unique in its severity and irrevocability," Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. at 187, is an excessive penalty for the rapist who, as such, does not take human life.

This does not end the matter, for, under Georgia law, death may not be imposed for any capital offense, including rape, unless the jury or judge finds one of the statutory aggravating circumstances and then elects to impose that sentence. Ga.Code § 26-3102 (1977); Gregg v. Georgia, supra at 165-166. For the rapist to be executed in Georgia, it must therefore be found not only that he committed rape, but also that one or more of the following aggravating circumstances were present: (1) that the rape was committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a capital felony; (2) that the rape was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony, or aggravated battery; or (3) the rape

was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or [p599] inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or aggravated battery to the victim. [n14]

Here, the first two of these aggravating circumstances were alleged and found by the jury.

Neither of these circumstances, nor both of them together, change our conclusion that the death sentence imposed on Coker is a disproportionate punishment for rape. Coker had prior convictions for capital felonies -- rape, murder, and kidnaping -- but these prior convictions do not change the fact that the instant crime being punished is a rape not involving the taking of life.

It is also true that the present rape occurred while Coker was committing armed robbery, a felony for which the Georgia statutes authorize the death penalty. [n15] But Coker was tried for the robbery offense as well as for rape, and received a separate life sentence for this crime; the jury did not deem the robbery itself deserving of the death penalty, even though accompanied by the aggravating circumstance, which was stipulated, that Coker had been convicted of a prior capital crime. [n16] [p600]

We note finally that, in Georgia, a person commits murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being. He also commits that crime when, in the commission of a felony, he causes the death of another human being, irrespective of malice. But even where the killing is deliberate, it is not punishable by death absent proof of aggravating circumstances. It is difficult to accept the notion, and we do not, that the rapist, with or without aggravating circumstances, should be punished more heavily than the deliberate killer as long as the rapist does not himself take the life of his victim. The judgment of the Georgia Supreme Court upholding the death sentence is reversed, and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

So ordered.

1. The section defines rape as having

carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will. Carnal knowledge in rape occurs when there is any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.

2. See n. 3, infra.

3. Ga.Code § 23102 (1977):

Capital offenses; jury verdict and sentence

Where, upon a trial by jury, a person is convicted of an offense which may be punishable by death, a sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury verdict includes a finding of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance and a recommendation that such sentence be imposed. Where a statutory aggravating circumstance is found and a recommendation of death is made, the court shall sentence the defendant to death. Where a sentence of death is not recommended by the jury, the court shall sentence the defendant to imprisonment as provided by law. Unless the jury trying the case makes a finding of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance and recommends the death sentence in its verdict, the court shall not sentence the defendant to death, provided that no such finding of statutory aggravating circumstance shall be necessary in offenses of treason or aircraft hijacking. The provisions of this section shall not affect a sentence when the case is tried without a jury or when the judge accepts a plea of guilty.

Ga.Code § 27-2302 (1977):

Recommendation to mercy

In all capital cases, other than those of homicide, when the verdict is guilty, with a recommendation to mercy, it shall be legal and shall be a recommendation to the judge of imprisonment for life. Such recommendation shall be binding upon the judge.

Ga.Code § 27-2534.1 (1977):

Mitigating and aggravating circumstances; death penalty

(a) The death penalty may be imposed for the offenses of aircraft hijacking or treason, in any case.

(b) In all cases of other offenses for which the death penalty may be authorized, the judge shall consider, or he shall include in his instructions to the jury for it to consider, any mitigating circumstances or aggravating circumstances otherwise authorized by law and any of the following statutory aggravating circumstances which may be supported by the evidence:

(1) The offense of murder, rape, armed robbery, or kidnapping was committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a capital felony, or the offense of murder was committed by a person who has a substantial history of serious assaultive criminal convictions.

(2) The offense of murder, rape, armed robbery, or kidnapping was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony, or aggravated battery, or the offense of murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of burglary or arson in the first degree.

(3) The offender by his act of murder, armed robbery, or kidnapping knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.

(4) The offender committed the offense of murder for himself or another, for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value.

(5) The murder of a judicial officer, former judicial officer, district attorney or solicitor or former district attorney or solicitor during or because of the exercise of his official duty.

(6) The offender caused or directed another to commit murder or committed murder as an agent or employee of another person.

(7) The offense of murder, rape, armed robbery or kidnapping was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated battery to the victim.

(8) The offense of murder was committed against any peace officer, corrections employee or fireman while engaged in the performance of his official duties.

(9) The offense of murder was committed by a person in, or who has escaped from, the lawful custody of a peace officer or place of lawful confinement.

(10) The murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or custody in a place of lawful confinement, of himself or another.

(c) The statutory instructions as determined by the trial judge to be warranted by the evidence shall be given in charge and in writing to the jury for its deliberation. The jury, if its verdict be a recommendation of death, shall designate in writing, signed by the foreman of the jury, the aggravating circumstance or circumstances which it found beyond a reasonable doubt. In non-jury cases the judge shall make such designation. Except in cases of treason or aircraft hijacking, unless at least one of the statutory aggravating circumstances enumerated in section 27-2534.1(b) is so found, the death penalty shall not be imposed.

Ga.Code § 27-2537 (1977):

Review of death sentences

(a) Whenever the death penalty is imposed, and upon the judgment becoming final in the trial court, the sentence shall be reviewed on the record by the Supreme Court of Georgia. The clerk of the trial court, within ten days after receiving the transcript, shall transmit the entire record and transcript to the Supreme Court of Georgia together with a notice prepared by the clerk and a report prepared by the trial judge. The notice shall set forth the title and docket number of the case, the name of the defendant and the name and address of his attorney, a narrative statement of the judgment, the offense, and the punishment prescribed. The report shall be in the form of a standard questionnaire prepared and supplied by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

(b) The Supreme Court of Georgia shall consider the punishment as well as any errors enumerated by way of appeal.

(c) With regard to the sentence, the court shall determine:

(1) Whether the sentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor, and

(2) Whether, in cases other than treason or aircraft hijacking, the evidence supports the jury's or judge's finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance as enumerated in section 27-2534.1(b), and

(3) Whether the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant.

(d) Both the defendant and the State shall have the right to submit briefs within the time provided by the court, and to present oral argument to the court.

(e) The court shall include in its decision a reference to those similar cases which it took into consideration. In addition to its authority regarding correction of errors, the court, with regard to review of death sentences, shall be authorized to:

(1) Affirm the sentence of death; or

(2) Set the sentence aside and remand the case for resentencing by the trial judge based on the record and argument of counsel. The records of those similar cases referred to by the Supreme Court of Georgia in its decision, and the extracts prepared as hereinafter provided for, shall be provided to the resentencing judge for his consideration.

(f) There shall be an Assistant to the Supreme Court, who shall be an attorney appointed by the Chief Justice of Georgia and who shall serve at the pleasure of the court. The court shall accumulate the records of all capital felony cases in which sentence was imposed after January 1, 1970, or such earlier date as the court may deem appropriate. The Assistant shall provide the court with whatever extracted information it desires with respect thereto, including but not limited to a synopsis or brief of the facts in the record concerning the crime and the defendant.

(g) The court shall be authorized to employ an appropriate staff and such methods to compile such data as are deemed by the Chief Justice to be appropriate and relevant to the statutory questions concerning the validity of the sentence.

(h) The office of the Assistant shall be attached to the office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Georgia for administrative purposes.

(i) The sentence review shall be in addition to direct appeal, if taken, and the review and appeal shall be consolidated for consideration. The court shall render its decision on legal errors enumerated, the factual substantiation of the verdict, and the validity of the sentence.

4. Because the death sentence is a disproportionate punishment for rape, it is cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment even though it may measurably serve the legitimate ends of punishment, and therefore is not invalid for its failure to do so. We observe that, in the light of the legislative decisions in almost all of the States and in most of the countries around the world, it would be difficult to support a claim that the death penalty for rape is an indispensable part of the States' criminal justice system.

5. See Bye, Recent History and Present Status of Capital Punishment in the United States, 17 J.Crim. L. & C. 234, 241-242 (1926).

6. Ala.Code, Tit. 14, § 395 (1958); Ark.Stat.Ann. § 41-3403 (1964); Fla.Stat.Ann. § 794.01 (1965); Ga.Code § 26-2001 (1977); Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. §§ 435.080-435.090 (1962); La.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 14:42 (1950); Md.Ann.Code, Art. 27, § 461 (1957); Miss.Code Ann. § 2358 (1957); Mo.Rev.Stat. § 559.260 (1969); Nev.Rev.Stat. § 200.360 (1963) (rape with substantial bodily harm); N.C.Gen.Stat. § 14-21 (1969); Okla.Stat.Ann., Tit. 21, § 1115 (1958); S.C.Code Ann. §§ 16-72, 180 (1962); Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-3702 (1955); Tex.Penal Code § 1189 (1961); Va.Code Ann. § 18.1-44 (1960); 18 U.S.C. § 2031.

7. 1976 Okla.Sess.Laws, c. 1, p. 627; 1976 La.Acts, Nos. 657, 694; 1976 Ky.Acts, c. 15 (Ex.Sess.); 1977 Wyo.Sess.Laws, c. 122. Recent legislative action has taken place in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, California, and New Jersey. The legislation has been signed into law in North Carolina and Virginia, N.C.Sess.Laws (May 19, 1977); 1977 Va.Acts, c. 492 (Mar. 29, 1977), and has been vetoed in Maryland and California, Washington Post, May 27, 1977, p. A1, col. 1; N.Y. Times, May 28, 1977, p. 8, col. 6. The Governor of New Jersey apparently has not yet acted on the legislation in that State.

8. The legislation that respondent places in this category is as follows:

Ky.Rev.Stat. § 507.020 (1975); La.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 14:30 (1974); Md.Code Ann., Art. 27, § 413(b) (Supp. 1976); Miss.Code Ann. §§ 97-3-19, 97-3-21, 97-25-55, 99-17-20 (Supp. 1975); Mo.Rev.Stat. §§ 559.005, 559.009 (Supp. 1975); Nev.Rev.Stat. § 200.030 (1975); N.C.Gen.Stat. §§ 14-17, 14-21 (Supp. 1975); Okla.Stat.Ann., Tit. 21, §§ 701.1-701.3 (Supp. 1975); S.C.Code Ann. § 16-52 (Supp. 1975); Tenn.Code Ann. §§ 39-2402, 39-2406, 39-3702 (1975); Va.Code Ann. §§ 18.210, 18.2-31 (1975). Brief for Respondent 19 n. 38.

9. Fla.Stat.Ann. § 794.011(2) (1976); Miss.Code Ann. § 9765 (Supp. 1976); Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-3702 (1974).

10. In Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 102 (1958), the plurality took pains to note the climate of international opinion concerning the acceptability of a particular punishment. It is thus not irrelevant here that, out of 60 major nations in the world surveyed in 1965, only 3 retained the death penalty for rape where death did not ensue. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Capital Punishment 40, 86 (1968).

11. U.S. Dept. of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration Report, Rape and Its Victims: A Report for Citizens, Health Facilities, and Criminal Justice Agencies 1 (1975), quoting Bard & Ellison, Crisis Intervention and Investigation of Forcible Rape, The Police Chief (May 1974), reproduced as Appendix I-B to the Report.

12. See Note, The Victim In a Forcible Rape Case; A Feminist View, 11 Am.Crim.L.Rev. 335, 338 (1973); Comment, Rape and Rape Laws: Sexism in Society and Law, 61 Calif.L.Rev. 919, 922-923 (1973).

13. See n. 1, supra, for the Georgia definition of rape.

14. There are other aggravating circumstances provided in the statute, see n. 3, supra, but they are not applicable to rape.

15. In Gregg v. Georgia, the Georgia Supreme Court refused to sustain a death sentence for armed robbery because, for one reason, death had been so seldom imposed for this crime in other cases that such a sentence was excessive, and could not be sustained under the statute. As it did in this case, however, the Georgia Supreme Court apparently continues to recognize armed robbery as a capital offense for the purpose of applying the aggravating circumstances provisions of the Georgia Code.

16. Where the accompanying capital crime is murder, it is most likely that the defendant would be tried for murder, rather than rape; and it is perhaps academic to deal with the death sentence for rape in such a circumstance. It is likewise unnecessary to consider the rape-felony murder -- a rape accompanied by the death of the victim which was unlawfully but nonmaliciously caused by the defendant.

Where the third aggravating circumstance mentioned in the text is present -- that the rape is particularly vile or involves torture or aggravated battery -- it would seem that the defendant could very likely be convicted, tried, and appropriately punished for this additional conduct.