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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
(Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Following his Florida conviction for first-degree murder and the imposition of the death penalty, Proffitt challenged the constitutionality of both his death sentence, alleging it was a "cruel and unusual" punishment, and Florida's capital-sentencing procedure, alleging is was arbitrary and capricious insofar as it permitted judges rather than juries to act as sole sentencing authorities.

This case is one of the five "Death Penalty Cases" along with Gregg v. Georgia, Jurek v. Texas, Roberts v. Louisiana, and Woodson v. North Carolina.


Is the death penalty a "cruel and unusual" punishment? Is Florida's capital- sentencing procedure unconstitutional?

Decision: 7 votes for Florida, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 8: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

No and no. The Court held that the death penalty was not a "cruel and unusual" punishment per se, and that Florida's capital-sentencing procedure was not unconstitutionally arbitrary and/or capricious. Although empowering trial judges with sole sentencing authority, the statutory procedure tightly prescribed their relevant decision-making process. The procedure requires sentencing judges to focus on both the crime's circumstances and the defendant's character by weighing eight statutory aggravating factors against seven statutory mitigating factors. Furthermore, sentencing judges are required to submit a written explanation of their death-sentence finding for the purpose of automatic review by Florida's Supreme Court. Such strict requirements sufficiently safeguard against the presence of any constitutional deficiencies arising from an arbitrary and/or capricious imposition of the death penalty.

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PROFFITT v. FLORIDA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
PROFFITT v. FLORIDA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"PROFFITT v. FLORIDA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,