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Massachusetts Capital Punishment Laws

Simply mention the death penalty and it has the ability to polarize people instantly. Indeed, capital punishment has a long and controversial history in the U.S., where each state makes its own laws concerning the sentence. Most states allow capital punishment, but Massachusetts does not. The death penalty has been banned by Massachusetts courts since 1984.

The basics of capital punishment laws in Massachusetts are highlighted in the table below. See FindLaw's Death Penalty section for more related articles.

Code Section Ch. 279 §§57-71
Is Capital Punishment Allowed? No; statutes still on books but Commonwealth v. Colon-Cruz, 393 Mass. 150, 470 N.E.2d 116 (1984) said state statute violates state constitution
Effect of Defendant's Incapacity Suspend sentence if insane or pregnant
Minimum Age No minimum age
Available for Crimes Other than Homicide? None
Definition of Capital Homicide Victim was police officer, special police officer, state or federal law enforcement officer, officer or employee of the department of corrections, sheriff's department, fireman, etc. acting in official duty; while defendant incarcerated; victim was judge, prosecuting attorney, juror or witness in official duty; previous murder conviction or of an offense in any federal state or territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. which is the same or necessarily includes the elements of an offense of murder in 1st degree; for hire; to avoid arrest, while escaping; involved torture or infliction of extreme pain; course of conduct-killing or serious injury to more than one person; explosive device; while rape, rape of a child, assault on a child, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 years old, assault with intent to rape, assault on a 16-year-old with intent to rape; assault and battery, kidnapping, kidnapping for ransom; breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, armed assault in a dwelling, confining or putting in fear or harming for purpose of stealing from depositories; murder occurred while in defendant in possession of a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun; robbery, arson, etc.
Method of Execution Electrocution or at election of prisoner, lethal injection

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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