Monday, October 23, 2006

Death Penalty Law in Mississippi

I thought with the execution of Bobby Glen Wilcher last week it might be appropriate to look at the death penalty in Mississippi. There was also the sad story of an Ole Miss police officer being dragged to death this past week and the driver may be facing the death penalty. There are currently, after the execution of Wilcher last Wednesday, 69 inmates on death row in Mississippi of which there are 67 males, 2 females, 32 whites, 36 blacks and 1 Asian. The oldest person currently on Mississippi’s death row is Gerald Holland who is currently 69 and the longest serving member is Richard Jordan whose entry date on his MDOC page is March 2, 1977. For information on each death row inmate see here. It is estimated that in the state’s history around 800 people have been executed.

On the legal side of the death penalty in Mississippi there are 3 things in which one can be sentenced to death.

1. Capital murder – Miss. Code Ann. 97-3-19 (2) – Murder if committed under the following circumstances;
- Killing of a peace officer if the assailant knew the person was a peace officer,
- murder by a person under a life imprisonment sentence,
- murder by bomb or explosive devise,
- murder for hire,
- murder when done while also committing rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson, robbery, sexual battery, unnatural intercourse with a child under the age of 12, nonconsensual unnatural intercourse with mankind or an attempt to commit the above offenses
- murder when done in connection with a violation of 97-5-39 which is felonious abuse or neglect of a child
- murder on educational property as defined in 97-37-17
- murder of a public official with knowledge they were a public official

2. Capital rape – Miss. Code Ann. 97-3-65 - rape of a child under age of 14. It should be noted the law is not clear whether the death penalty is available for capital rape or the sentence tops out at life imprisonment (which is also a capital sentence). Another good resource on this issue is Collins v. State, 691 So.2d 918.

3. Air piracy – Miss. Code Ann. 97-25-55 – This offense is defined as “the seizure or exercise of control, by force or violence or threat of force or violence, of any aircraft within the airspace jurisdiction of the State of Mississippi”. The two available penalties for a violation of this offense is the death penalty or life imprisonment. This statute does not appear to have been used at this point in time.

If there are any specific issues concerning the death penalty law itself one might want to discuss we (the moderators) are open to that discussion but the intent of this post is to provide a primer, of sorts, of the applicable Mississippi law.

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