Crimes for which the death penalty is foreseen in the USA

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Joel Fulleda
@joelfulleda
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Index

  • Which crimes are punishable by death in the various states
  • Federal crimes punished with the death penalty

In American states where the death penalty is still in force, there are different types of crimes that can be punished with a death sentence.

The first and most important is undoubtedly first degree murder but to this are then added a series of aggravating of various kinds that can transform a possible life imprisonment into a death sentence. Each state has its own legislation on the matter and therefore there can be obvious differences in treatment for prisoners.



Let's try to understand better what are the crimes punishable by the death sentence in the different federal states.

Which crimes are punishable by death in the various states

First we need to distinguish between state and federal crimes. The former are recognized by the statutes of the individual states of the country while the latter are applied at the federal level and extend beyond simple first degree murder.

Regarding state capital crimes, it is important to specify that in some cases the crime of murder can be defined aggravated. It means that there are additional elements that make the fact even more serious.

Some states have up to 20 different aggravating circumstances for homicides including robbery, rape, murder of serving police officer, physical assault, murder of minors, and many more.

States like the California they have so many aggravating elements that attempts have been made to streamline them in some way but without great success.

In most states, the only capital offense allowed by law is murder but in several local statutes they are also included minor offenses, with or without aggravating agents. However, in practice they are never punished with the death penalty.



Let's see in each state which specific crimes lead to capital punishment.

Alabama: intentional homicide with 19 aggravating circumstances.

Arizona: first degree murder with 10 aggravating circumstances.

Arkansas: capital murder with 10 aggravating circumstances, treason.

California: first degree murder with 22 circumstances of aggravation, treason, derailment of trains with victims, perjury leading to the execution of an innocent person.

Delaware: first degree murder with 22 aggravating circumstances.

Florida: first degree murder, drug trafficking.

Georgia: first degree murder with 12 aggravating circumstances, robbery with injuries, kidnapping with victim, hijacking of aircraft, treason.

Idaho: first degree murder with 11 aggravating factors, kidnapping with 5 aggravating elements, perjury that causes the execution of an innocent person.

Indiana: murder with 9 aggravating circumstances.

Kansas: capital murder with 8 aggravating circumstances.

Kentucky: murder with 8 aggravating circumstances, armed robbery and kidnapping with aggravating factors.

Louisiana: first degree murder with 13 aggravating circumstances, aggravated rape on a victim under 12, treason.

Mississippi: first degree murder with 10 circumstances of aggravation, treason, hijacking of planes.

Missouri: first degree murder with 17 aggravating circumstances, treason.

Montana: voluntary murder with 7 aggravating circumstances, aggravated kidnapping, attempted murder, sexual assault.

Nebraska: first degree murder with 9 aggravating circumstances.

Nevada: first degree murder with 15 aggravating circumstances.


North Carolina: first degree murder with 11 aggravating circumstances.

Ohio: aggravated homicide with at least 10 aggravating circumstances.


Oklahoma: first degree murder with 8 aggravating circumstances, rape, kidnapping with extortion, rape of victims under 14 years of age.

Oregon: first degree murder with 4 aggravating circumstances.

Pennsylvania: first degree murder with 18 aggravating circumstances.

South Carolina: murder with 10 aggravating circumstances, sexual crimes on minors.

South Dakota: first degree murder with 10 aggravating circumstances.

Tennessee: first degree murder with 16 aggravating circumstances.

Texas: murder 9 different circumstances of aggravation.

Utah: first degree murder with 20 aggravating circumstances.

Virginia: first degree murder with 15 aggravating circumstances.

Wyoming: first degree murder with 11 aggravating circumstances.

Federal crimes punished with the death penalty

Federal type capital crimes are many more than state crimes which, in large part, concern only first degree murder.

The federal death penalty is applied in cases of murder committed in special circumstances which implies the involvement of several people together, minorities, public officials or minors.

Beyond aggravated killings, the list of federal crimes also includes other crimes such as terrorist acts, sexual violence, hijacking, kidnapping.

Over the past twenty years, however, almost none of these crimes have turned into a death sentence. In fact, since 2003 The sentences envisaged for federal prison inmates were suspended thanks to the moratorium promoted by Bush in 2000.


Only federal executions resumed in June 2020 at the behest of the Trump administration.  

Federal offenses punishable by capital punishment are the following:


  • Murder committed using a chemical weapon or a weapon of mass destruction.
  • Murder, kidnapping with death, or conspiracy to kill a member of Congress, the Cabinet or the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • Murder committed using explosive material.
  • Murder committed using an illegal firearm.
  • Murder resulting in the death of a person in a car shooting for drugs.
  • First degree murder.
  • Car theft with death of the people involved.
  • Sending explosive substances with death of the people involved.
  • Intentional destruction of aircraft or motor vehicles resulting in the death of passengers.
  • Hijacking of aircraft with the death of the people involved.
  • Murder caused by kidnapping or hostage-taking.
  • First degree murder within United States territorial and maritime jurisdiction
  • Murder committed with poison or assault.
  • Intentional and premeditated murder.
  • Murder committed in an attempt to cause arson, torture, escape, kidnapping, betrayal, espionage, sabotage, aggravated or non-aggravated sexual abuse, child abuse, robbery or burglary.
  • Murder committed as part of an assault or torture scheme against one or more children.
  • Murder committed by a federal inmate or a federal prisoner escaped with a 15-year life sentence.
  • Murder of a bailiff or juror.
  • Murder committed to prevent testimony or to take revenge on a witness, victim or whistleblower.
  • Murder, kidnapping resulting in death, or conspiracy to kill the President of the United States, Vice President or a presidential staff member.
  • Murder of individuals assisting federal investigations or state prison officials.
  • Intentional destruction of a train resulting in the death of the people involved.
  • Murder with sexual abuse.
  • Murder with sexual exploitation of children.
  • Torture leading to death.
  • Death as a result of violence at an international civil airport.
  • Murder of an American citizen in an act of terrorism committed in another country.
  • Murder resulting from an act of terrorism that crosses national borders.
  • Homicide provoked by the use of interstate commercial facilities in commission or preparation of commissioned homicide.
  • Crime against civil rights or criminal association resulting in death, kidnapping or rape.
  • Attempting, authorizing or advising the murder of any officer, juror or witness in cases involving an ongoing criminal enterprise, regardless of whether or not such death occurs.
  • Large-scale drug trafficking.

 


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