The death penalty is a sentence that imposes death as the punishment for
a crime. Crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed are referred to as
capital crimes. The death penalty is also referred to as “Capital Punishment”
and “Death Sentence.” In California, a number of offenses
may result in the death penalty, including first-degree murder with special
circumstances, sabotage, train wrecking causing death, treason, perjury
causing the execution of an innocent person and fatal assault by a prisoner
serving a life sentence.
Circumstances that can elevate a first-degree murder to a death penalty
- The murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.
- The murder was committed during the commission or attempt to commit another
felony (e.g., kidnapping, robbery, rape).
- The defendant was lying in wait before murdering the victim.
- The defendant committed or attempted to commit more than one murder at
the same time.
Thirty-five states have the death penalty. California re-enacted the death
penalty in 1974. “Death row” (where the prisoners are held
who have been sentenced to the death penalty) for male prisoners is located
in San Quentin, California female death penalty prisoners are in Chowchilla,
California. In California, defendants on “Death Row” can choose
to be put to death either by injection or gas.