Capital Punishment Law

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The current state of the law regarding capital punishment is that each state is allowed to create its own death penalty statutes and implement the death penalty basically as it chooses. The Supreme Court in Coker v. Georgia did limit the implementation of the death penalty to only apply to the crime of murder and not any other offense such as rape. Currently, 15 American states have partially or completely outlawed the death penalty including Michigan, Alaska, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Maine, California, North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, Iowa, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. Capital punishment was briefly abolished from 1972-1976 after the Court ruled, in a very fractured opinion, in the case of Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was unconstitutional in the three particular cases they considered. However, after this brief suspension, many states reestablished a death penalty statute and continue to exercise their right to yield this ultimate punishment. In Mississippi, the murders that can be considered “capital murders,” and thus eligible for capital punishment, are found in Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19, which reads:

“. . . (2) The killing of a human being without the authority of law by any means or in any manner shall be capital murder in the following cases: (a) Murder which is perpetrated by killing a peace officer or fireman while such officer or fireman is acting in his official capacity or by reason of an act performed in his official capacity, and with knowledge that the victim was a peace officer or fireman . . . ; (b) Murder which is perpetrated by a person who is under sentence of life imprisonment; (c) Murder which is perpetrated by use or detonation of a bomb or explosive device; (d) Murd...

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...n Gregg when he states that “the data which now exists shows no correlation between the existence of capital punishment and lower rates of capital crimes” when he attributes to a study done by the United Nations, Department of Economic Affairs, Capital Punishment, pt. II, I 159, p. 123 (1968). Justice Marshall goes on to note that he thinks the idea that a criminal would alter his behavior simply because the punishment may be life imprisonment rather than the death penalty is ridiculous. Even the plurality Justices in Gregg admits that there is little or no deterrent effect on murders that occur during the heat of passion. However, the Court states that the death penalty likely is a deterrent for premeditated murdersix. Again, I contend that this vie is hard to substantiate as it is almost impossible to determine with any certainty and seems more like a presumption.
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