A resident of a house came home while Furman was breaking into it. While trying to escape Furman tripped and his gun fired accidentally. One of the residents was shot and killed. Furman was tried for murder and was found guilty. He was sentenced to death.
Justice Potter Stewart, as one of the majority, wrote that "These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual. For, of all the people convicted of rapes and murders in 1967 and 1968, many just as reprehensible as these, the petitioners are among a capriciously selected random handful upon whom the sentence of death has in fact been imposed. My concurring Brothers have demonstrated that, if any basis can be discerned for the selection of these few to be sentenced to die, it is the constitutionally impermissible basis of race. See McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184. But racial discrimination has not been proved, n14 and I put it to one side. I simply conclude that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments cannot tolerate the infliction of a sentence of death under legal systems that permit this unique penalty to be so wantonly and so freakishly imposed". Other Justices came to the comparable conclusions based on factors including the quality of legal representation provided.