the death penalty at the federal level n.
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THE DEATH PENALTY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
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  1. THE DEATH PENALTY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL

  2. 37 Separate Death Penalty Systems in the United States • Each of 35 states has a death penalty system • The federal government has a death penalty system • The U.S. military has a death penalty system • No two systems are exactly alike.

  3. The Federal Court Structure • 94 U.S. District Courts • 13 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals • U.S. Supreme Court

  4. Death Penalty Cases and the Supreme Court • Court of Last Resort • Hears death penalty cases appealed from U.S. circuit courts of appeals and from the high court of a state • 4 of 9 justices must vote to hear a case (the rule of four) • It takes 5 justices to stay, or stop, an execution

  5. Death Penalty Cases and the Supreme Court (cont.) • When required number of votes has been achieved, Court issues a writ of certiorari to lower court whose decision is being appealed, ordering it to send the records forward for review.

  6. Death Penalty Cases and the Supreme Court (cont.) • Supreme Court will only issue writ of certiorari if defendant has exhausted all other avenues of appeal and the case involves a substantial federal question (either the constitutionality of a state or federal death penalty statute is challenged or constitutional rights have been violated).

  7. Actions That Can Be Taken by the Supreme Court 1. Affirm the verdict or decision of the lower court and let it stand; 2. Modify the verdict or decision of the lower court, without totally reversing it; 3. Reverse the verdict or decision of the lower court, requiring no further court action; or

  8. Actions That Can Be Taken by the Supreme Court (cont.) 4. Reverse the verdict or decision of the lower court and remand the case to the court of original jurisdiction, for either retrial or resentencing.

  9. Filing a Writ of Habeas Corpus • Is a court order directing a law officer to produce a prisoner in court to determine if the prisoner is being legally detained or imprisoned • In some cases, can be filed by death row inmate whose appeal has been denied.

  10. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require a minimum of two attorneys be appointed to represent federal capital defendants (at least one of the attorneys must have experience in capital defense work)

  11. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require the government to inform the defendant of its intention to seek death within a reasonable time before trial or before the court accepts a defendant’s guilty plea

  12. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require the government, before trial or plea, to list the aggravating circumstances that it proposes to prove to justify a death sentence

  13. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require the weighing of statutorily enumerated aggravating and mitigating circumstances (no method or standard for weighing is prescribed)

  14. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Give the government the burden of establishing aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt

  15. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require unanimity on the part of jurors in the finding of an aggravating circumstance

  16. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require that a sentence other than death be imposed if no aggravating circumstance is found to exist

  17. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Require only a single juror to find a mitigating circumstance before it can be weighed

  18. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Allow victim impact evidence

  19. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Give the right to appeal both the conviction and the death sentence

  20. Three grounds for appeal: (1) The death sentence was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor; (2) the admissible evidence and information adduced does not support the special finding of the existence of the required aggravating factor; or

  21. Three grounds for appeal (cont.): (3) the proceedings involved any other legal error requiring reversal which was properly preserved for appeal under the rules of criminal procedure. No relief may be provided for any error that the government proves to be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

  22. Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (shared with some states) • Exempt from the federal death penalty persons less than 18 years of age at the time of the offense, mentally retarded and insane persons, and pregnant women (but only while they are pregnant)

  23. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures • Require authorization from the U.S. Attorney General before federal prosecutors can file capital charges

  24. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (cont.) • Require the court to consider the Federal Public Defender’s recommendation about which attorneys are qualified for appointment in capital cases

  25. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (cont.) • List three different sets of aggravating circumstances: those for espionage and treason; those for homicide; and those for non-homicide drug offenses

  26. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (cont.) • Require federal judges in capital sentencing proceedings to instruct the jury that in considering whether a sentence of death is justified, it shall not consider the race, color, religious beliefs, national origin, or sex of the defendant or of any victim

  27. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (cont.) • Require a jury that recommends death to furnish the court with a certificate signed by each juror swearing that discrimination played no part in the decision and that the same sentencing recommendation would have been made regardless of the race, color, religious beliefs, national origin, or sex of the defendant or any victim

  28. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (cont.) • Restrict the federal government’s ability to impose the death penalty on Native Americans

  29. Unique Federal Capital Punishment Procedures (cont.): Native Americans • Capital prosecution of persons subject to the criminal jurisdiction of an Indian tribal government where federal jurisdiction is based solely on Indian country and where the offense occurred within the boundaries of Indian country is prevented, unless the governing body of the Indian tribe waives its sovereign immunity.

  30. Federal Executions • First federal execution: Thomas Bird, who was hanged for murder in Maine on June 25, 1790. • Until recently, federal prisoners were usually executed in the state where the crime occurred because the federal government did not have its own site for executions.

  31. Federal Executions (cont.) • In states without a death penalty, a federal judge could choose another state to conduct the execution. • All that changed in 1995 when the federal Bureau of Prisons converted an old cellblock at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana into the first national death-row facility in American history.

  32. Federal Executions (cont.) • The death-row facility did not become operational until July 13, 1999, the date it received the first group of death row inmates. (The government delayed opening the facility until then because it decided that it took at least 20 inmates to be cost effective.)

  33. Federal Executions (cont.) • The first 3 people executed at the Terre Haute facility were Timothy McVeigh on June 11, 2001, Juan Raul Garza on June 19, 2001, and Louis Jones, Jr. on March 18, 2003. • Since Bird's execution in 1790, and including McVeigh and Garza, the U.S. government has executed 339 men and four women.

  34. Federal Executions (cont.) • McVeigh, Garza, and Jones were executed by lethal injection, the only method now used by the U.S. government. • The 340 other federal executions were by hanging (81 percent), electrocution (17 percent), and lethal gas (2 percent).

  35. Federal Executions (cont.) • The executions of McVeigh, Garza, and Jones were the first federal executions in nearly 40 years. • The last federal execution before them occurred on March 15, 1963, when Victor H. Feguer was hanged at Iowa State Penitentiary for kidnapping and murdering an Iowa physician.

  36. Federal Executions (cont.) • As of April 11, 2007, 50 people were under a federal death sentence. All of them were male, 50 percent were black, 40 percent were white, 8 percent were Latino, and 2 percent were Native American.