Mississippi Capital Punishment Laws

The death penalty is a controversial topic, with many victims' rights advocates strongly supporting its use, and, on the other side, many individuals opposing the practice for various religious and political reasons. In fact, due to the expense of carrying out capital punishment (with its many appeals), some fiscal conservatives also support a death penalty abolition.

Mississippi Death Penalty Procedures

Mississippi is one of 32 states that do have the death penalty. Mississippi currently uses lethal injection to execute offenders. Capital murder cases are divided into two parts, first guilt or innocence is determined. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing hearing will occur.

At the sentencing hearing a series of aggravating (guilt increasing) and mitigating (guilt lessening) factors are considered. Unless at least one aggravated circumstance is found and not overcome by one or more mitigating circumstances, the death penalty can’t be imposed. If the jury can’t decide on a sentence in a reasonable time, the judge will dismiss the jury and impose life imprisonment.

The aggravating circumstances are that the defendant was:

  • Already imprisoned when the offense occurred
  • Previously convicted of a capital offense or violent felony
  • Created a great risk of death to many people
  • Committed while engaged in, an accomplice to, or while attempting or fleeing, any robbery, rape, arson, burglary, kidnapping, hijacking, sexual assault, rape of a child under 12, non-consensual sodomy, child abuse, or the unlawful detonation of a bomb
  • Committed to avoid lawful arrest, escape from custody, hinder lawful government functions, influence policy by coercion or assassination, or for money or other gain
  • Crime was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel
  • Committed to intimate civilians

Mitigating circumstances include that:

  • The defendant:
    • Had no significant prior criminal activity
    • Was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance
    • Was merely an accomplice in the capital offense committed by another person and his or her participation was minor
    • Was under extreme duress or domination by another person
    • Lacked the ability to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct or conform his or her conduct to the law
    • Was very young (but at least 18) or old at the time of the crime
  • The victim participated in defendant’s conduct or consented to it.

Mississippi Death Penalty Laws

The following table further elaborates on Mississippi capital punishment laws.

Code Section Mississippi Code Sections
97-13-13: Homicide – Capital Murder Defined
97-3-21: Homicide – Penalty for Capital Murder
97-7-67: Treason Punishment
97-25-55: Aircraft Piracy
99-19-51 to 99-19-61: Execution Procedures
99-19-101 to 107 : Separate Sentencing Proceeding to Determine Punishment in Capital Cases
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? Yes , Mississippi both has legal capital punishment and regularly uses the death penalty. If the death penalty is held unconstitutional by the Mississippi or U.S. Supreme Courts, those sentenced to death shall be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Definition of Capital Homicide Being convicted of capital murder can result in the capital punishment, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or life imprisonment with parole eligibility.

The deliberate killing of a human being without legal authority is capital murder when:
  • A cop, park ranger, judge, prosecutor, federal or state official, city or county official, correctional officer or fireman was killed in his or her official capacity
  • Perpetrated by a person under a life sentence
  • Accomplished using a bomb
  • When offered or received anything of value for the murder
  • Committed while engaged in or attempting any rape, arson, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, hijacking, sexual assault, rape of a child under 12, nonconsensual sodomy, child abuse, or the unlawful detonation of a bomb
  • Murder was on school property

To sentence someone to death, the jury must find the defendant actually killed, attempted to kill, intended to kill, or contemplated that lethal force would be employed.

Available for Crimes Other than Homicide Yes, Mississippi does permit capital punishment for the non-homicide crimes of treason and aircraft piracy (hijacking).
Suspension of Sentence Due to Defendant’s Circumstances If the offender is pregnant the death penalty will be delayed until after birth of the child or an end to the pregnancy by another means.

If the offender is found to be mentally ill after the court judgment (so the insanity wasn’t the reason for the actions so the person shouldn’t be executed at all), then the offender will be committed to the criminal unit at the Mississippi State Hospital until sanity is restored.
Minimum Age Although Mississippi law doesn’t state a minimum age for execution, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 in Roper v. Simmons decided that offenders who were under 18 years old when the crime was committed can’t be executed.
Method of Execution Mississippi executes using lethal injection. Previously the electric chair and hanging where used.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime that could receive the death penalty, you need to contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense lawyer. This can be a very stressful time, as it is for the family of murder victims. If your loved one has been killed, you should reach out for help through the local district attorney’s office or the Mississippi Department of Corrections: Division of Victim Services.

Note: State criminal laws change from time-to-time, it’s important to contact a criminal lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify these laws.

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