07 September 2007

Death Penalty Without A Dead Victim

A useful recap of the crimes for which U.S. state or federal law allows the death penalty to be imposed without proof that someone has died as a victim of the crime is found here. Only one person is currently on death row for such a crime: Patrick Kennedy in Louisiana who was convicted of child rape.

Six Southern states and Montana have child rape death penalties.

The other non-murder crimes on the books are as follows:

Three address cases where death is likely but hard to prove:

* Treason (Arkansas, Calif., Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington, Federal)
* Espionage (New Mexico, Federal)
* Aggravated kidnapping (Co., Idaho, Il., Missouri, Mont.)

Three more amount to particularly aggravated cases of what amount to attempted murder:

* Aircraft hijacking (Ga., Mo.)
* Placing a bomb near a bus terminal (Mo.)
* Aggravated assault by incarcerated, persistent felons, or murderers (Mont.)
* Attempting, authorizing or advising the killing of any officer, juror,or witness in cases involving a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, regardless of whether such killing actually occurs. (Federal)

One is a product of war on drugs hysteria:

* Drug trafficking (Fl., Missouri, Federal)

The only Colorado crime on this list, First Degree Kidnapping, Section 18-3-301, Colorado Revised Statute provides that: "no person convicted of first degree kidnapping shall suffer the death penalty if the person kidnapped was liberated alive prior to the conviction of the kidnapper." Likewise, life in prison without parole is not a sentencing option for the offense "if, prior to his conviction, the person kidnapped was liberated unharmed."

Note also that many states, including Colorado, allow the death penalty to be imposed in cases where the victim is killed, but not directly by the person who is sentenced to death (e.g. by a fellow participant in a felony).

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