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What You Should Know about the Death Penalty in Georgia

Posted by Thurston Lopes | Feb 01, 2020 | 0 Comments

In modern society, the grave punishment known as the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous class of crimes that can be committed.  These may be termed serious “capital” crimes.  For those who are accused of such crimes, the death penalty can be proposed to exact the ultimate punishment on those who are found guilty. In many cases, the only thing standing between the accused and the death penalty is a highly qualified criminal law attorney in Marietta, Cobb County, GA.

In the state of Georgia, the statutes that govern criminal law allow the death penalty as an available option that prosecutors can pursue for a restricted group of crimes. For a time in the mid-1970s, the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it represented cruel and unusual punishment. However, the practice was soon reenacted nationwide in 1976. Georgia was involved in the case that resulted in the ruling that the death penalty was unconstitutional as well as the ruling that later reinstated the practice. Keep reading below to learn more things that you should know about the death penalty in Georgia.

Crimes Warrant the Death Penalty

While some mistakenly believe that the death penalty is routinely considered in a wide variety of Georgia criminal cases, that couldn't be further from the truth. Georgia recognizes the death penalty as an option for the following crimes: murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping committed by a person with a prior record of conviction for a capital felony or while engaged in the commission of another capital felony.  Generally, for a murder conviction to warrant the death penalty there must also be  some qualifying criteria to result in the death penalty. Those criteria include:

  • Prior conviction of a capital crime
  • Murder committed during the commission of another capital crime or assault
  • Murder committed for monetary gain
  • Murder in which the weapon used could indiscriminately kill many people
  • Murder in which the victim was a law enforcement officer or judicial official
  • Murder in which the victim was tortured
  • Murder in which the offender was resisting arrest when the murder occurred
  • Murder in which the offender was in a correctional facility or was an escapee at the time of the murder
  • Murder when the offender had a prior conviction of rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, or aggravated sexual battery.

Georgia Was at the Center of National Death Penalty Cases

In 1972, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision that the death penalty was unconstitutional because it was a form of cruel and unusual punishment. That opinion was rendered in the decision of Furman v. Georgia as well as Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas. Generally, the Court held that Georgia's laws tended to be biased against black defendants, although not all Justices agreed on that rationale.  As a result of the decision the death penalty was declare a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments.  All executions nationwide were placed on indefinite hold. However, another case involving the state of Georgia saw a reversal of that decision. In the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia, the court ruled that the death penalty wasn't a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments and that the states could resume executions, only by lethal injection, so long as the death penalty isn't imposed in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

Death Penalty Cases Are Infrequent

Because of the high bar that Georgia criminal law has set when it comes to qualification for the death penalty, cases in which that punishment is warranted aren't as common as one may think. Because juries are generally reluctant to impose the death penalty, many prosecutors no longer seek it. When the death penalty is involved, the jury must unanimously vote to impose the punishment, or the case will result in a hung jury in the penalty phase. In such cases in which there is a dissenting juror, a life sentence will be imposed instead.

There are few cases encountered in Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia that will result in the sentence of death penalty, but Georgia does provide for capital punishment in the event of an egregious crime that meets the abovementioned aggravating circumstances.

If you've been arrested and charged with a serious capital felony, your first step in preparing a defense should be to find a qualified criminal defense lawyer, like Attorney Lopes of the Lopes Law Firm who has what it takes to prepare your best case and defense.  Don't try to navigate the legal process yourself. Without proper legal representation, you face very serious consequences. Hire the best Marietta, Cobb County Criminal lawyer. Call The Lopes Law Firm at (404) 589-9000to request a confidential case evaluation.  You will be glad you did.

About the Author

Thurston Lopes

For over 20 years, Thurston Lopes has served the Metro Atlanta area. He has a passion for what he does, and works to ensure that all clients receive approachable, responsive representation. Credentials Mr. Lopes received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hampton University in 1989, an...


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