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In McGautha v. California (1971) the majority wrote this famous passage: “To identify before the fact those characteristics of criminal homicides and their perpetrators which call for the death penalty, and to express these characteristics in language which can be fairly understood and applied by the sentencing authority, appear to be tasks which are beyond present human ability.” According to lecture, what does this reveal about the majority’s view of the reality of human judgment?


The majority believes that California’s capital statute is too vague and thus creates the chance for too much arbitrariness.

b The majority believes that because all homicides are different and the backgrounds of each case so variable and unpredictable, it is not possible to write down clear, understandable rules to guide the discretion of persons (jurors or judges) deciding the life or death of a defendant.


The majority believes that California’s capital statute is unfair because it arbitrarily targets black defendants.


The majority believes that although it might be difficult to create an understandable standard for guiding the deciders of life and death, it is possible to do so and that all capital statutes must therefore delineate specific rules.


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