Section 1-3-4 of the Mississippi Code of 1972 reads as follows:
The terms "capital case," "capital cases," "capital offense," "capital offenses," and "capital crime" when used in any statute shall denote criminal cases, offenses and crimes punishable by death or imprisonment for life in the state penitentiary. The term "capital murder" when used in any statute shall denote criminal cases, offenses and crimes punishable by death, or imprisonment for life.
Capital Crimes are crimes for which the defendant may face life imprisonment or death penalty if found guilty. Capital Punishment has long been a very divisive issue. In fact, many states do not impose the death penalty in capital murder cases, believing it to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
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CApital Murder in Mississippi
In Mississippi, a defendant may be found guilty of capital murder, and thus sentenced to the death penalty, if:
- he or she murders a “peace officer,” such as a police officer, a sheriff, a judge, or any other law enforcement officer, or a fireman;
- he or she murders another while serving time for life imprisonment;
- he or she murders another by detonating a bomb or other explosive device;
- the murder results from a murder-for-hire contract;
- he or she murders another during the commission of one of the enumerated felonies (rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson, robbery, sexual battery, intercourse with any child under the age of 12; or even the attempt to commit any of these felonies);
- death occurs during the commission of felony child abuse or battery;
- he or she murders another on educational property; or
- he or she murders a known elected official.
Accordingly, a defendant convicted of capital murder may be sentenced 1) to death, 2) to life imprisonment without parole, or 3) to life imprisonment with the opportunity for parole.
Capital Punishment cases are extremely complex. Due to the severity of the penalties, the State ensures that defendants in capital murder cases have the proper avenues to appeal their convictions. Therefore, capital punishment cases involve four separate phases for judicial review:
- the sentencing phase,
- direct review,
- state collateral review, and
- federal habeas corpus proceedings.
The legal system provides several opportunities for defendants convicted of capital murder to appeal their convictions and present mitigating factors to reduce their sentences from capital punishment to life imprisonment, with or without parole.
Although Capital Murder cases are extremely complex, the attorneys at Coxwell & Associates have the knowledge and experience to provide our clients with quality criminal defense representation. Merrida Coxwell has worked on numerous capital cases over his career. At Coxwell & Associates, our attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive the best representation possible. Our attorneys have a reputation across the state for providing excellent and aggressive representation in criminal defense cases. Contact our skilled and experienced criminal defense attorneys today.
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How Is Murder Defined in Mississippi?
An individual commits murder when they:
- Intentionally kill an individual or unborn baby
- Kill someone while committing a dangerous act or illustrating a depraved heart without regard for human life
- Cause the death of an individual while trying to commit/committing a felony
What Constitutes as Capital Murder in Mississippi?
Capital murder is the most severe crime in Mississippi. The term is used to define particularly malicious or egregious situations in which the murder takes place, such as using explosives or killing a public official.
How Does Murder Differ From Manslaughter in Mississippi?
What differentiates manslaughter from murder in Mississippi is the intent to kill. Murder is intentional, while manslaughter is unintentional. In general, if the prosecutor cannot prove the intent to kill, you will be charged with manslaughter.
There are two types of manslaughter: involuntary and voluntary.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when you kill a person by accident but out of recklessness and negligence. For example, you can be charged for manslaughter if you drive recklessly through a stop sign and hit someone.
In contrast, voluntary manslaughter occurs when you cause the death of someone due to provocation or excessively aggressive action in self-defense. For example, if somebody attacks you and you defend yourself with excessive force, you can be charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Defenses for Capital Murder in Mississippi
You can use the following defenses for capital murder offenses:
- You committed the murder accidentally.
- You killed someone while reacting in the “heat of the moment” following a provocation.
- The murder took place without use of a dangerous weapon or undue advantage.
- The killing occurred while legally defending yourself, another person, a business, or your property from an imminent or current felony while trying to keep the peace.
- As a public officer, you murdered while working under legal duty like court judgment to stop someone from resisting a legal process or trying to arrest a fleeing criminal or capture an escaped criminal.