The Federal Law on Capital Punishment

This paper will fallow the process of a capital trial from arrest to execution. It will discus the aspects of federal and state law, trial, appeal, and executions. It will go into further detail on arraignment and the trail details of defense and sentencing.

The federal law on capital punishment begins with the constitution, which states in the eighth amendment of the bill of rights that, no person shall be subject to cruel or unusual punishment. Despite this and for the reason that it is the government that decides what is cruel and unusual, capital punishment is still federally legal. Under the united states code, title eighteen there are certain crimes that can be punished by death. Section thirty-four of the said title and code says that any crime that results in the death of any person can be punished by death. Section

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1512 deals with witnesses, victims, or informants. It states that anyone who kills or atemps to kill another person with the intent to prevent the attendance or testimony at trail may be punished by death. Section 2332 states that who ever kills a national of the united states while the national is outside the united states is subject to death if the killing is murder as it is defined. Section 36 states that participants in any continuing criminal enterprise dealing with controlled substances may be punished by death. Section 1992 states that whoever willfully derails, disables, or recks any train used in interstate or foreign commerce can be punished by death.

Finally section 831 states that anyone involved in prohibited transactions involving nuclear material can be subject to the death penalty.

State laws in capital punishment defer from state to state and vary in a wide range of crimes for which it can be imposed. This range usually contains one or more of the fallowing, murder of a law enforcement officer, vehicular homicide while under the influence, contract killings, felony murder, first degree murder, or any murder. No matter the laws of the state are certain states have and will always use their own discretion in handing down a death sentence. This means that for what ever reason, be it social make up, religious make up, or the simple fact that a death sentence may inhibit the prosecution, in that the jury may be hesitant to take a life no matter what the crime, the death sentence is not always used in all cases that it is allowed in. Add to this the differing state laws and the same crime may draw different sentences in different states.

The first step once a murder has been reported is to get a suspect. After a suspect is determined and probable cause has been established, a warrant will be issued for the individuals arrest. Upon arrest the individual will be made clear of the crime of which he is being charged and his rights.

He will then be taken into custody.

Once in custody he will make an initial appearance in court, if the charges are not dropped the case will move on to a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary if the charges are still not dropped bail or detention will be issued. Fallowing this a date will be set up for a grand jury indictment, if the prosecution successes in its indictment the individual will be arraigned. Supposing that the defendant gives a not guilty plea and the charges have not been dismissed, a trail date will be set.

In the trial the defendant will be represented by a defense attorney and the people will be represented by the prosecution. Both sides will make their opening statements, will call witnesses, and will make their closing statements. In these the prosecution will state its facts and attempt to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty . The defense will present its defense. In a murder case the possible defenses are as fallows, mistaken identity, set up, self defense or defense of others, defense of property, aiding a peace officer, or insanity. Since the laws concerning these defers from state to state they will be dealt with in a model form. Mistaken identity is simple. The defendant is not the killer and was identified as such by mistaken witnesses or evidence.

A set up means that someone who actually committed the crime or the police or law officers conspired to make the defendant seem at fault. Self defense is only viable if the defendant felt that he was in danger of death, serious harm, rape, or kidnaping. Even then there are other stipulations. First off the had to have been no way to retreat with complete safety and their could not be any way to stop the opposing actions by surrendering a good or restraining from any certain action(s). The only way the defendant would not have to retreat is if he was in his home or place of work, or a peace officer attempting an arrest or preventing an escape. If the defense is protecting others all the above still stands and both the defendant and the individual in danger must both believe in the danger. In defense of property there are only two times when it is valid. One If the defendant was being dispossessed of his dwelling and only immediate deadly force can prevent this, or two if a felony is being committed and there has been a threat of deadly force, or if inaction will result in serious injury to himself or others. In aiding a police officer their must be a felony arrest, intent of the arrest must be made clear, their is no risk to the innocent, the crime must involve use of deadly force and if the suspect flees he will cause death or serious harm to others . A final option for the defense is the insanity defense.

Three states do not have a defense for not guilty by reason of insanity, they only have guilty by reason of insanity. Three other states have abolished their insanity tests. Two states have no test. The remaining states use either the American Law Institute test, the M’Naghten rule, or both. The M’naghten rule is that:

“The party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason,

from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality

of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, he did not know he

“A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of

Such conduct as the result of mental disease or defect he lacks

he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality

of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of

These conditions are almost always associated with delusional disorders such as schizophrenia .

If in the course of the trial or before the deliberations have been completed the defense may initiate a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a plea of guilty in exchange for concessions in the charges or in the sentencing . This is sometimes the best way to save the defendants life.

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The Federal Law on Capital Punishment. (2018, Jun 24). Retrieved from