Courts have handed down the death penalty as a legal sentence off and on throughout the history of Tennessee. Capital punishment remains a valid sentence even today. However, early in 2022, the governor suspended all executions temporarily to have the lethal injection system reviewed.
While defendants can still receive a death sentence, the penalty is reserved for particularly heinous violent crimes resulting in death. Is capital punishment possible if convicted of homicide or murder?
Defining capital homicide
Courts do not arbitrarily hand out death sentences. The alleged offense must meet the definition of capital murder to be punishable by death. Below are several examples of factors that indicate capital homicide.
- Paying for or receiving payment for the death
- The victim was a law professional (judge, etc.)
- The act occurred under lawful confinement
- The victim was an on-duty peace officer
- Involved cruelty and/or torture
- The victim was elderly (70+)
- The victim was very young
- Victim was disabled
- Involved terrorism
A court may also impose the death penalty if the defendant’s alleged actions put multiple people at “great risk of death.”
There are several ways you and your legal counsel can improve your situation. For example, presenting evidence that the victim abused you for years before the incident might take the death penalty out of consideration. Other examples include:
- Act committed under coercion or force
- You had reasonable moral justification
- You played only a minor role in the death
- You are very young or elderly
- Lack of prior criminal activity
Since each case has unique characteristics, consider increasing your knowledge of Tennessee homicide laws. You could discover even more ways to minimize the possibility of an unfavorable outcome.