06/27/2007 - In the last 35 years, beginning with its temporary moratorium on the death penalty, the Supreme Court has changed its view of capital punishment and done so more than once. The majority of Americans, however, has not, according to Pew Research Center polls.
On June 29, 1972, the court determined the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment because states were imposing it in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner. Four years later, the court upheld several new state death penalty statutes, allowing executions to resume. Since then, it has gradually narrowed the circumstances in which capital punishment can be used, prohibiting the execution of the mentally insane, the severely retarded and offenders who were under 18 when they committed their crimes. It also ruled that rape alone was not a crime punishable by death.
Read the full article Polls Show Capital Punishment's Constant Constituency is an American Majority at the Pew Research Center Web site.