State Codes and Statutes

State Codes and Statutes

Statutes > North-carolina > Chapter_15A > GS_15A-2000


Article 100.

Capital Punishment.

§ 15A‑2000.  Sentence ofdeath or life imprisonment for capital felonies; further proceedings todetermine sentence.

(a)        SeparateProceedings on Issue of Penalty. –

(1)        Except as providedin G.S. 15A‑2004, upon conviction or adjudication of guilt of a defendantof a capital felony in which the State has given notice of its intent to seekthe death penalty, the court shall conduct a separate sentencing proceeding todetermine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or lifeimprisonment. A capital felony is one which may be punishable by death.

(2)        The proceeding shallbe conducted by the trial judge before the trial jury as soon as practicableafter the guilty verdict is returned. If prior to the time that the trial jurybegins its deliberations on the issue of penalty, any juror dies, becomesincapacitated or disqualified, or is discharged for any reason, an alternatejuror shall become a part of the jury and serve in all respects as thoseselected on the regular trial panel. An alternate juror shall become a part ofthe jury in the order in which he was selected. If the trial jury is unable toreconvene for a hearing on the issue of penalty after having determined theguilt of the accused, the trial judge shall impanel a new jury to determine theissue of the punishment. If the defendant pleads guilty, the sentencingproceeding shall be conducted before a jury impaneled for that purpose. A juryselected for the purpose of determining punishment in a capital case shall beselected in the same manner as juries are selected for the trial of capitalcases.

(3)        In the proceedingthere shall not be any requirement to resubmit evidence presented during theguilt determination phase of the case, unless a new jury is impaneled, but allsuch evidence is competent for the jury's consideration in passing onpunishment. Evidence may be presented as to any matter that the court deemsrelevant to sentence, and may include matters relating to any of theaggravating or mitigating circumstances enumerated in subsections (e) and (f)of this section. Any evidence which the court deems to have probative value maybe received.

(4)        The State and thedefendant or his counsel shall be permitted to present argument for or againstsentence of death. The defendant or defendant's counsel shall have the right tothe last argument.

(b)        SentenceRecommendation by the Jury. – Instructions determined by the trial judge to bewarranted by the evidence shall be given by the court in its charge to the juryprior to its deliberation in determining sentence. The court shall giveappropriate instructions in those cases in which evidence of the defendant'smental retardation requires the consideration by the jury of the provisions ofG.S. 15A‑2005. In all cases in which the death penalty may be authorized,the judge shall include in his instructions to the jury that it must considerany aggravating circumstance or circumstances or mitigating circumstance orcircumstances from the lists provided in subsections (e) and (f) which may besupported by the evidence, and shall furnish to the jury a written list ofissues relating to such aggravating or mitigating circumstance orcircumstances.

After hearing the evidence,argument of counsel, and instructions of the court, the jury shall deliberateand render a sentence recommendation to the court, based upon the followingmatters:

(1)        Whether anysufficient aggravating circumstance or circumstances as enumerated insubsection (e) exist;

(2)        Whether anysufficient mitigating circumstance or circumstances as enumerated in subsection(f), which outweigh the aggravating circumstance or circumstances found, exist;and

(3)        Based on theseconsiderations, whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or toimprisonment in the State's prison for life.

The sentence recommendationmust be agreed upon by a unanimous vote of the 12 jurors. Upon delivery of thesentence recommendation by the foreman of the jury, the jury shall beindividually polled to establish whether each juror concurs and agrees to thesentence recommendation returned.

If the jury cannot, within areasonable time, unanimously agree to its sentence recommendation, the judgeshall impose a sentence of life imprisonment; provided, however, that the judgeshall in no instance impose the death penalty when the jury cannot agreeunanimously to its sentence recommendation.

(c)        Findings in Supportof Sentence of Death. – When the jury recommends a sentence of death, theforeman of the jury shall sign a writing on behalf of the jury which writingshall show:

(1)        The statutoryaggravating circumstance or circumstances which the jury finds beyond areasonable doubt; and

(2)        That the statutoryaggravating circumstance or circumstances found by the jury are sufficientlysubstantial to call for the imposition of the death penalty; and,

(3)        That the mitigatingcircumstance or circumstances are insufficient to outweigh the aggravatingcircumstance or circumstances found.

(d)        Review of Judgmentand Sentence. –

(1)        The judgment ofconviction and sentence of death shall be subject to automatic review by theSupreme Court of North Carolina pursuant to procedures established by the Rulesof Appellate Procedure. In its review, the Supreme Court shall consider thepunishment imposed as well as any errors assigned on appeal.

(2)        The sentence ofdeath shall be overturned and a sentence of life imprisonment imposed in lieuthereof by the Supreme Court upon a finding that the record does not supportthe jury's findings of any aggravating circumstance or circumstances upon whichthe sentencing court based its sentence of death, or upon a finding that thesentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or anyother arbitrary factor, or upon a finding that the sentence of death isexcessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases,considering both the crime and the defendant. The Supreme Court may suspendconsideration of death penalty cases until such time as the court determines itis prepared to make the comparisons required under the provisions of thissection.

(3)        If the sentence ofdeath and the judgment of the trial court are reversed on appeal for error inthe post‑verdict sentencing proceeding, the Supreme Court shall orderthat a new sentencing hearing be conducted in conformity with the procedures ofthis Article.

(e)        AggravatingCircumstances. – Aggravating circumstances which may be considered shall belimited to the following:

(1)        The capital felonywas committed by a person lawfully incarcerated.

(2)        The defendant hadbeen previously convicted of another capital felony or had been previouslyadjudicated delinquent in a juvenile proceeding for committing an offense thatwould be a capital felony if committed by an adult.

(3)        The defendant hadbeen previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violenceto the person or had been previously adjudicated delinquent in a juvenileproceeding for committing an offense that would be a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, orE felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person if the offensehad been committed by an adult.

(4)        The capital felonywas committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest oreffecting an escape from custody.

(5)        The capital felonywas committed while the defendant was engaged, or was an aider or abettor, inthe commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing orattempting to commit, any homicide, robbery, rape or a sex offense, arson,burglary, kidnapping, or aircraft piracy or the unlawful throwing, placing, ordischarging of a destructive device or bomb.

(6)        The capital felonywas committed for pecuniary gain.

(7)        The capital felonywas committed to disrupt or hinder the lawful exercise of any governmentalfunction or the enforcement of laws.

(8)        The capital felonywas committed against a law‑enforcement officer, employee of theDepartment of Correction, jailer, fireman, judge or justice, former judge orjustice, prosecutor or former prosecutor, juror or former juror, or witness orformer witness against the defendant, while engaged in the performance of hisofficial duties or because of the exercise of his official duty.

(9)        The capital felonywas especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.

(10)      The defendantknowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person by means of aweapon or device which would normally be hazardous to the lives of more thanone person.

(11)      The murder for whichthe defendant stands convicted was part of a course of conduct in which thedefendant engaged and which included the commission by the defendant of othercrimes of violence against another person or persons.

(f)         MitigatingCircumstances. – Mitigating circumstances which may be considered shallinclude, but not be limited to, the following:

(1)        The defendant has nosignificant history of prior criminal activity.

(2)        The capital felonywas committed while the defendant was under the influence of mental oremotional disturbance.

(3)        The victim was avoluntary participant in the defendant's homicidal conduct or consented to thehomicidal act.

(4)        The defendant was anaccomplice in or accessory to the capital felony committed by another personand his participation was relatively minor.

(5)        The defendant actedunder duress or under the domination of another person.

(6)        The capacity of thedefendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform hisconduct to the requirements of law was impaired.

(7)        The age of thedefendant at the time of the crime.

(8)        The defendant aidedin the apprehension of another capital felon or testified truthfully on behalfof the prosecution in another prosecution of a felony.

(9)        Any othercircumstance arising from the evidence which the jury deems to have mitigatingvalue. (1977, c.406, s. 2; 1979, c. 565, s. 1; c. 682, s. 9; 1981, c. 652, s. 1; 1994, Ex.Sess., c. 7, s. 5; 1995, c. 509, s. 14; 2001‑81, s. 1; 2001‑346, s.2.)