Bowman & Smith P.C. Attorneys At Law

Capital Offenses

A capital  offense  is  a  serious  crime  for  which  the death  penalty  is  possible. In

Arizona, the death penalty may  only  be  imposed  for the following capitol offenses:

first  degree  murder,  premeditated   m u r d e r,   and  felony  murder.  If  the

prosecution wants to ask for  the death  penalty  in  a case, they must file a notice of

intent within thirty days  of  the  defendant's  arraignment  (when official charges are

brought). In cases of capitol offenses,  there  are  two major phases of the case: the

trial phase and the sentencing phase.


During the trial phase of a capital  case,  the  prosecution has the burden of proving

beyond a reasonable  doubt  that  the  defendant  is  guilty  of  a capitol offense. If a

person has been  convicted  of  the  capital  offense(s)  in  question, the sentencing

phase will begin, during which the  aggravating  and  mitigating facts of the case will

be weighed to determine if the death penalty  should be issued. Prior to 2002, a trial

judge  was  responsible  for  weighing  the  aggravating  and  mitigating  factors of a

capital case to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment.


However,  in  2002,  the  United  States

Supreme Court  ruled  in  the landmark

case of  Ring  v  Arizona  that Arizona's

law  was   unconstitutional,  because  it

violated a criminal  defendant's right to

a trial by jury.  T o d a y,   a jury must

decide  whether  to  impose  the  death

penalty,  rather  than  a  judge.  In the

sentencing phase of a capital case, the

prosecution will  set  forth  evidence of

the aggravating factors and the   c r i m i n a l   defense will provide evidence of any

possible mitigating factors,  which  would  give  reason  to  grant leniency. If the jury

finds sufficient evidence of at  least  one  of  ten  aggravating circumstances, without

the presence of mitigating factors,  the  death  penalty may be imposed. It may also

be imposed when the  aggravating   c i r c u m s t a n c e s   outweigh the mitigating



Representation  by  a  qualified  criminal   defense  attorney  is  essential  in  a  case

involving a capital offense. The  qualified  and  highly  experienced  criminal defense

attorneys at Bowman & Smith  presently  handle  capital  cases  and are prepared to

aggressively  protect  and   m a x i m i z e   your  legal  interests.  Competence  and

commitment  in  criminal  defense  are  paramount  to  reducing  the  severity of the

consequences in a capital case. To learn more about capital offenses, please contact

us to speak with an attorney at Bowman & Smith today.


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