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Arkansas Capital Punishment Laws

Capital punishment, or the "death penalty," was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 (Gregg v. Georgia) after a four-year prohibition. Not all states reinstated the death penalty, but most did. Generally, death sentences are reserved for those convicted of first-degree murder and other particularly heinous crimes. However, most states where it is legal also apply capital punishment to those who accidentally kill someone while committing another felony (such as armed robbery or sexual assault).

Capital Punishment in Arkansas: The Basics

Arkansas, as in most states with capital punishment, carried out executions by hanging until the electric chair came into use in 1913. Today, condemned convicts are executed by lethal injection, although the law states that the electric chair remains an option in the event that lethal injection is ever ruled unconstitutional. The list of capital offenses in Arkansas includes premeditated (first-degree) murder; contract killing; murder of an individual under the age of 14; death resulting from firing a gun at a vehicle; treason; and murder committed while committing or attempting to commit another felony.

Additional details about Arkansas's capital punishment provisions are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more articles and resources.

Code Section 5-4-601, et seq.; 5-51-201
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? Yes, capital murder
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity If no aggravating circumstances are found or if mitigating circumstances outweigh aggravating circumstances, the court shall impose life in prison without parole; no defendant with mental retardation at the time of committing murder shall be sentenced to death
Minimum Age Chronological age does not necessarily control jury's determination (Giles v. Statz 549 S.W. 2d 479 (1977))
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? Treason
Definition of Capital Homicide Homicide committed by a person incarcerated for felony conviction; committed by person unlawfully at liberty after being imprisoned for felony conviction; use of threat or violence in commission of felony; knowingly created grave risk of death to person other than victim or caused the death of more than one person in the same criminal episode; committed in order to prevent arrest or escape custody; committed for pecuniary gain; committed for purposes of disrupting/hindering lawful exercise of any government or political function; especially cruel or depraved manner by use of torture or methods evidencing the defendant's pleasure in committing the murder; committed by means of destructive explosive, bomb, similar device
Method of Execution Lethal injection or electrocution if lethal injection held unconstitutional

Note: State laws are constantly changing, most often through the enactment of new legislation or decisions from higher courts. Therefore, you should contact an Arkansas criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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