1998 Regular Session
To: Judiciary B
By: Representative Flaggs
House Bill 163
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 99-19-101 AND 99-36-5, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE FOR VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS IN CAPITAL CASES; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 99-19-101, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
99-19-101. (1) Upon conviction or adjudication of guilt of a defendant of capital murder or other capital offense, the court shall conduct a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death, life imprisonment without eligibility for parole, or life imprisonment. The proceeding shall be conducted by the trial judge before the trial jury as soon as practicable. If, through impossibility or inability, the trial jury is unable to reconvene for a hearing on the issue of penalty, having determined the guilt of the accused, the trial judge may summon a jury to determine the issue of the imposition of the penalty. If the trial jury has been waived, or if the defendant pleaded guilty, the sentencing proceeding shall be conducted before a jury impaneled for that purpose or may be conducted before the trial judge sitting without a jury if both the State of Mississippi and the defendant agree thereto in writing. In the proceeding, evidence may be presented as to any matter that the court deems relevant to sentence, and shall include matters relating to any of the aggravating or mitigating circumstances. However, this subsection shall not be construed to authorize the introduction of any evidence secured in violation of the Constitution of the United States or of the State of Mississippi. The state and the defendant and/or his counsel shall be permitted to present arguments for or against the sentence of death. The guardian of a victim or a close relative of a deceased victim shall be entitled to provide a victim impact statement prior to sentencing.
(2) After hearing all the evidence, the jury shall deliberate on the following matters:
(a) Whether sufficient factors exist as enumerated in subsection (7) of this section;
(b) Whether sufficient aggravating circumstances exist as enumerated in subsection (5) of this section;
(c) Whether sufficient mitigating circumstances exist as enumerated in subsection (6) of this section, which outweigh the aggravating circumstances found to exist; and
(d) Based on these considerations, whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment, life imprisonment without eligibility for parole, or death.
(3) For the jury to impose a sentence of death, it must unanimously find in writing the following:
(a) That sufficient factors exist as enumerated in subsection (7) of this section;
(b) That sufficient aggravating circumstances exist as enumerated in subsection (5) of this section; and
(c) That there are insufficient mitigating circumstances, as enumerated in subsection (6), to outweigh the aggravating circumstances.
In each case in which the jury imposes the death sentence, the determination of the jury shall be supported by specific written findings of fact based upon the circumstances in subsections (5) and (6) of this section and upon the records of the trial and the sentencing proceedings. If, after the trial of the penalty phase, the jury does not make the findings requiring the death sentence or life imprisonment without eligibility for parole, or is unable to reach a decision, the court shall impose a sentence of life imprisonment.
(4) The judgment of conviction and sentence of death shall be subject to automatic review by the Supreme Court of Mississippi within sixty (60) days after certification by the sentencing court of entire record, unless the time is extended for an additional period by the Supreme Court for good cause shown. Such review by the Supreme Court shall have priority over all other cases and shall be heard in accordance with rules promulgated by the Supreme Court.
(5) Aggravating circumstances shall be limited to the following:
(a) The capital offense was committed by a person under sentence of imprisonment.
(b) The defendant was previously convicted of another capital offense or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person.
(c) The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to many persons.
(d) The capital offense was committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an accomplice, in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing or attempting to commit, any robbery, rape, arson, burglary, kidnapping, aircraft piracy, sexual battery, unnatural intercourse with any child under the age of twelve (12), or nonconsensual unnatural intercourse with mankind, or felonious abuse and/or battery of a child in violation of subsection (2) of Section 97-5-39, Mississippi Code of 1972, or the unlawful use or detonation of a bomb or explosive device.
(e) The capital offense was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody.
(f) The capital offense was committed for pecuniary gain.
(g) The capital offense was committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmental function or the enforcement of laws.
(h) The capital offense was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.
(6) Mitigating circumstances shall be the following:
(a) The defendant has no significant history of prior criminal activity.
(b) The offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance.
(c) The victim was a participant in the defendant's conduct or consented to the act.
(d) The defendant was an accomplice in the capital offense committed by another person and his participation was relatively minor.
(e) The defendant acted under extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person.
(f) The capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired.
(g) The age of the defendant at the time of the crime.
(7) In order to return and impose a sentence of death the jury must make a written finding of one or more of the following:
(a) The defendant actually killed;
(b) The defendant attempted to kill;
(c) The defendant intended that a killing take place;
(d) The defendant contemplated that lethal force would be employed.
SECTION 2. Section 99-36-5, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
99-36-5. (1) A victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim is entitled to the following rights within the criminal justice system:
(a) The right to receive from law enforcement agencies adequate protection from harm and threats of harm arising from cooperation with prosecution efforts, including, but not limited to, the filing of criminal charges where the perpetrator is known;
(b) The right to have a circuit or county court judge take the safety of the victim or his family into consideration as an element in fixing the amount of bail for the accused;
(c) The right to be informed of relevant court proceedings and to be informed if those court proceedings have been canceled or rescheduled prior to the event;
(d) The right to be informed, when requested, by the district attorney's office concerning the general procedures in the criminal justice system, including general procedures in guilty plea negotiations and arrangements;
(e) The right to provide a victim impact statement prior to any sentencing of the offender including capital cases; and
(f) The right to receive information regarding compensation to victims of crime as may be provided by law.
(2) A victim, guardian of a victim or close relative of a deceased victim has the right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the prosecution of the accused, consistent with the rules of evidence.
(3) A judge, attorney for the state, peace officer or law enforcement agency is not liable for a failure or inability to provide a right enumerated in this chapter. The failure or inability of any person to provide a right or service enumerated in this chapter may not be used by a defendant in a criminal case as a ground for appeal. A victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim does not have standing to participate as a party in a criminal proceeding or to contest the disposition of any charge.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.