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Aggravating Circumstances and the Death Penalty

The death penalty is supposedly imposed only for the most aggravated crimes committed by the most incorrigible offenders. Most capital sentencing statutes provide for consideration of “aggravating factors” in deciding whether to impose the death penalty. Aggravating factors are supposed to limit the death penalty to the worst crimes and the most incorrigible offenders. One of the most controversial aggravating circumstances is “future dangerousness” which requires a prediction of whether the offender is likely to be a danger to society in the future.

Federal Death Penalty Statute

There are aggravating factors for several different crimes to determine if a sentence of death is justified. 

· Treason or espionage

· Grave risk to national security

· Grave risk of death

· Homicide

· Death during commission of another crime

· Previous conviction of violent felony involving firearm

· Prior conviction of another serious offense,

· Procurement of offense by payment

· Pecuniary gain

· Substantial planning and premeditation

· Conviction for two felony drug offenses,

· Vulnerability of victim

· Conviction for serious federal drug offenses

· Continuing criminal enterprise involving drug sales to minors

· High public officials

· Prior conviction of sexual assault or child molestation

· Multiple killings or attempted killings

There are different aggravating by State. In your State, what aggravating factors make the defendant eligible for the death penalty?