Coker v. Georgia Case Brief

Facts of the case

In 1974, Erlich Anthony Coker, serving a number of sentences for murder, rape, kidnapping, and assault, escaped from prison. He broke into a Georgia couple’s home, raped the woman and stole the family’s car. The woman was released shortly thereafter, without further injuries. The Georgia courts sentenced Coker to death on the rape charge.

Why is the case important?

Defendant Coker escaped from prison where he was serving various sentences for murder, rape, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. The Defendant committed another rape, along with kidnapping and armed robbery, among others, and a jury convicted him of his crimes. Under a Georgia statute, the Defendant was sentenced to death, and he appeals.


Is the imposition of the death penalty for rape unconstitutional?


The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) forbids cruel and unusual punishment, i.e. punishments that are “excessive” in relation to the crime committed. “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.”


  • Advocates: David E. Kendall Argued the cause for the petitioner B. Dean Grindle, Jr. Argued the cause for the respondent
  • Petitioner: Coker
  • Respondent: Georgia
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: –
Citation: 433 US 584 (1977)
Argued: Mar 28, 1977
Decided: Jun 29, 1977
Coker v. Georgia Case Brief