Murders are heinous and so are the people involved in capital murder. Do you know what is capital murder? If you don’t then this article is for you. Read ahead to know all the details about it.
Murder always grosses people out. Hearing news of multiple murders is nothing less than trauma. Various types of murder happen around you and you might even know about them. Though it leaves a massive impact on the mind, there are various ways to keep yourself out of it.
Out of all types of murders, capital murder is of most gruesome. It is considered a first-class felony and may include a death sentence or life in prison. More than 400,000 die each year by homicide around the globe. Approximately 5000 people in America are killed every year. The number has been rising as the years are passing. It is related to capital punishment or you can say it came from the concept of capital punishment. But what are capital murder and punishment? Where is capital punishment legal? We’ll see that later in the article.
In the eye of the law, every murder is equally bad. If you are into the criminal world or becoming a lawyer or an intelligence agent you may want to know what is capital murder. Stick around to get the most on your plate!
What is capital murder?
So what is capital murder? Capital murder is a statutory crime of killing someone intentionally. In this offense, the offender has a malicious premeditated plan to harm an individual or eventually kill him.
It is more like murder but the difference is a law-abiding officer is involved or killed. Like an on-duty police officer or a fireman being killed while pulling over a car or while saving an individual from arson. Every state in the US has different laws regarding capital murder. It comes under the category of first-degree murder which can lead to the death penalty.
Capital murder includes unlawful killing without justifying the reason for killing. It has been noticed that a capital murderer performs this heinous crime under so-called “special circumstances” or “aggravating circumstances” like killing someone while abducting or raping.
For instance, a brutal murder has been attempted in December 2012 by Harlem Harold. He was being chased by a police officer named Jimmie Norman because of insufficient car insurance. During the chase, he also hit another truck driven by Sylvan Amaya who also began chasing him to get his license and insurance. After a long cat-and-mouse chase, Harlem stopped in the parking lot of Macco body shop where the police officer attempted to remove him from his car. It was the time when Terry Taylor, the shop owner, also came out but little did he know that he had stepped into a lion’s den.
Harlem shot Norman and Terry dead and proceeded to walk further but eventually, he was captured and charged with capital murder. In this incident, the aggravating circumstance was “running from the police officer and killing him to be saved from insurance fine.”
What is capital punishment?
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty is given after an individual commits a grave crime like an intentional murder. Capital punishment is one of the oldest punishments which can be traced back to 399 BCE. An individual is eligible for capital punishment when he has killed another person with a plan and a specific weapon. Many states do not allow capital punishment as they reduce the sentence by the circumstances.
Where is capital punishment legal?
Another frequently asked question is “where is capital punishment legal?” Capital punishment is legal in 27 states of the United States. Below is a list of states in the US where capital punishment is legal:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Abolished capital punishment
As mentioned earlier, not all countries have capital punishment. In addition, not even all states of the US have permission to sentence capital punishment. Following are the 23 states who had capital punishment for murder but now have abolished it.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- Puerto Rico
- West Virginia
Circumstances in capital murder
Understanding what is capital murder is one thing, but understanding the conditions might make it. Under the law of the United States, there are two major types of circumstances under which a capital murders sentence is given
Mitigating circumstances lessen the guilt or the sentence and include the following factors:
- No previous charges of any crime.
- Insane or affected cognitive ability like after intoxication or schizophrenia.
- Witness a murder or helped the murderer.
- Forced to kill under the pressure of being killed or tortured.
- Under the age of 18.
- Accepted the crime.
Aggravating circumstances increase the guilt and include the following factors:
- Murder committed by an imprisoned man could lead to an extension of his sentence or the death penalty.
- Previous charges of crime or capital murder.
- Threatening or posing a threat to people.
- Murder is committed when escaping from a crime scene after committing robbery, rape, arson, burglary, kidnapping, or sexual assault.
- Murder committed to escape from prison or custody or lawful arrest.
- Murder of civilians.
Other types of murders
It may seem weird but there are various types of murders yes murders vary concerning intention and motive. Below are 4 broad categories of murder.
It is the most awful type of murder. In this type, the murderer plans and plots the attempt of murder beforehand and executes it at the right time. You might see a major comparison of capital murders vs first-degree murder in many places but it is also right to say that capital murder falls under the category of first-degree murder sometimes.
Let’s see an example of the capital murder of Douglas Campbell French by Marticia Michelle Mathias. It was predetermined and the victim was beaten to death in Tennessee.
Second-degree murder is also brutal killing but it does not involve premeditation. Although the killer has the intention to harm the victim they do not plot the murder as first-degree murderers do. However, you can say that it is an unlawful act of killing people without plotting the murder first.
Third-degree murder is rather considered manslaughter. It does not involve any planning or bad intention most of these cases include killing in self-defense or causing a car accident.
Manslaughter overlaps with third-degree murder as it involves accidental killing like causing death after drinking or hitting a robber. It is a homicide but with less culpable consequences than murder.
Capital murder in Texas
Every state of the USA has varying laws but the law for capital murder is more likely life imprisonment. Texas capital murder is stated in Sec. 19.03.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person murders as defined under Section 19.02(b)(1) and:
(1) the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
(2) the person intentionally murders in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat under Section 22.07(a)(1), (3), (4), (5), or (6);
(3) the person murders remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to murder remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
(4) the person murders while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
(5) the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
(A) who is employed in the operation of the penal institution; or
(B) with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination of the profits of a combination;
(6) the person:
(A) while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Section 19.02, murders another; or
(B) while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under Section 20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
(7) the person murders more than one person:
(A) during the same criminal transaction; or
(B) during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed according to the same scheme or course of conduct;
(8) the person murders an individual under 10 years of age; or
(9) [the person murders an individual 10 years of age or older but younger than 15 years of age; or
(10) the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.
Capital murder in Virginia
A person can be charged with capital murder when he deliberately kills in “aggravated circumstances” which includes the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer and the murder of a victim below age 14. It further includes the murders attempted during a burglary or as an act of terrorism.
Capital murder is not limited to this, it also includes circumstances like a murder committed by a prisoner or during rape or sexual assault. Furthermore, if a murderer kills a pregnant woman with the intention of termination of pregnancy, it will be capital murder. Murder of a witness is also considered capital murder by the law in Virginia.
As far as the punishment of capital murder is concerned in Virginia, the following is the criterion:
- If a murderer has a mental disability or is under 18 years old, he will be sentenced to lifetime prison or a fine of $100,000.
- If an individual is older than 18, he might be sentenced to life in prison without parole and concerning the intensity of the crime, a death sentence might be issued against them.
Capital murder in Alabama
Alabama also considers capital murder as the most brutal homicide. Cruel the form of murder, harsh will be the punishment. The definition of capital murder remains the same for every state that is “intentional and deliberate killing.”
Any killing which involves:
- Murder of a child (under 14)
- Caused during burglary or theft
- Death as a result of arson, rape, sexual assault
- The killing of a law enforcement officer on duty
- Shooting or explosion
All these are types of capital murder in Alabama. However, the punishment varies according to the age and type of murder committed. Most commonly, an individual charged with capital murder is sentenced to a lifetime in prison or the death penalty. Since 1976, the state of Alabama has executed more than 65 individuals for capital murder whereas 175 are still on death row.
Capital murder in Mississippi
One of the major states in the USA is Mississippi. It is one of those 32 states which have a death penalty for capital murder. At Mississippi courts, the murder trial is divided into two categories.
- First, innocence or guilt is determined. All the evidence is kept forth to determine whether the accused is a murderer or not. Once this has been determined, they move to the next part of the trial.
- In the second part, a sentencing hearing occurs in which the aggravated or mitigating circumstances are determined. Aggravating circumstances result in increased guilt of the accused whereas mitigating circumstances lessen it.
If anyone aggravating circumstance is found, which is not overcome by a mitigating circumstance, the individual will either be sentenced to prison or eventually given the death penalty. In Mississippi, they use lethal injection methods in cases of death sentences.
Capital murder vs first-degree murder
Do not get confused when you see capital murders vs first-degree comparison charts because they are somewhat different. Capital murder is deliberate and includes aggravated circumstances.
Capital murder and first-degree murder are mostly similar. Both involve predetermined killing with a specific weapon. The major difference lies in the circumstances during the killing. In capital murder, the murderer conducts a malice act which is considered eligible for capital punishment however, first-degree murder is predetermined. Only 27 states in the US are authorized for sentencing capital punishment for capital murder.
Keep in mind that all capital murders are not first-degree murders whereas, all first-degree murders are capital murders. A proven capital murder only has the death penalty as a punishment however, a first degree might have a life sentence as a penalty too. The point is, capital murder is unforgivable and works on the principle of “blood for blood.”
Capital murder defense
If you are being charged with capital murder although you have not committed one, you may consider putting forward the following defenses. Many times lawyers use the same technique to get the defendant out of the situation or to reduce the capital murders sentence.
Murder doesn’t need to be committed with intention, it might be done in the spur of the moment or accidentally. In this case, the defendant will be charged with third-degree murder instead of first-degree or capital murder. For instance, you hit someone with a baseball bat while playing, causing the death of an individual. In this case, you will not be charged with capital murder. However, there must be enough evidence to prove that you are innocent. If you fail to provide the evidence and the victim prosecution has more evidence against you, you cannot be saved.
If the defendant has a record of mental illness or suffering from a disorder, it can be put forward as a defense. In this case, the defendant will be sent to a mental institute until he recovers from the illness. He might also be fined depending on the brutality of the crime and the aggravated circumstances. Thus, you need to prove your insanity to get away from false murder accusations.
Self-defense is the most commonly used defense tactic. Sometimes it is true but it can be wrong too. Some states of the US allow the defendant to kill in defense in case of rape, burglary, or robbery. To prove your innocence, you must have enough evidence. So how can you defend? What reasons can you give for your self-defense?
- First, you must mention if the victim had threatened you with bodily harm or verbally abused you to kill you.
- Secondly, if the victim has forced you to do something or hurt you in defense of which you reacted that led to the killing.
- You might not be able to prove self-defense if you initiated or gaslighted the situation as a result of which the victim attacked you and you killed him.
- Furthermore, killing someone days after they threatened you is unjustifiable.
If you have been accused of murder even when you were not present at that moment, your identity might have been mistaken. If you succeed in proving that you were not present and it was someone else who has been mistaken with you, you will be set free without any charges. But if the case is contrary, you will be in trouble.
Having an alibi to state in your favor will be the best way to get you out of the accusation. If an alibi tells the prosecution that you were not there but somewhere else or you did it in self-defense you won’t be charged with capital murder. Thus, make sure you have an authentic alibi.
Intoxication is the root cause of many heinous crimes. It is almost similar to unstable cognitive ability because after getting high, a person loses control over his actions. Thus, if someone is killed by an intoxicated person, the murderer will not be charged with capital murder, but rather with a first or second-degree felony.
Heat of passion
Another defense that you can give is that the crime attempted was the result of sudden passion because of a sudden cause. In this case, the defendant might be provoked to attempt a heinous act that produces anger and rage in the defendant leading to rage killing. However, if you prove that your actions were the result of sudden passion, your charges will not be dismissed meanwhile there is a possibility that they will be reduced to a second-degree felony. In this way, you will not be sentenced to death and might be sent to prison with a specific amount of fine to be paid.
Murder is an offense that is unforgivable in any condition. The concept of capital murder is complex. Thus, if you are enlightening yourself with what is capital murder or what are potential damage it causes, you might read this article completely. If more than one person is killed, the crime will be capital murder. A convicted individual is always given opportunities to prove his innocence by providing mitigating factors. These mitigating factors will lead to the reduction of the sentence instead of capital punishment.
If you are being charged with capital murder, you must immediately hire a lawyer for yourself to get out of the mess. However, if the crime is proven, there will be no chance of being saved. Thus, make sure neither you commit murder nor you participate in it.