On 15 February 1995, the 11 judges took their seats to hear the first case. The case, S v Makwanyane, raised the question of the constitutionality of the death penalty

For three days the judges heard arguments. The facts of the case, in which Makwanyane had been sentenced to death, were not directly relevant: the core issue was what bearing the interim Constitution had on the death penalty. Did the death penalty violate sections 9, 10 and 11(2), which guaranteed every individual the right to life, the right to dignity and the right to be free from torture and cruel punishment?

In its judgment, handed down on 6 June 1995, the Court unanimously found that the death penalty was indeed unconstitutional.