Killing a police officer is one of nine capital felonies that is punishable by the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The law requires a separate sentencing hearing before a judge or jury to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors. The judge or jury cannot impose the death penalty, however. If the mitigating factors outweigh or are of equal weight to the aggravating factors, or if any of four automatic bars to the death penalty exist, they must sentence the person to life in imprison without the possibility of parole. But do cop killers always get the death penalty?
Killing a Police Officer Does Not Always Get The Death Sentence
Even states that would normally be considered pro death penalty do not always sentence cop killers to death. Sometimes prosecutors decide to accept the cop killer’s plea deal because there are concerns a jury might agree with a death sentence. The murder of a police officer actually carries a mandatory life sentence in some states, such as Illinois.
Is The Death Penalty Falling Out Of Favor?
The numbers of death sentences have dropped actually dramatically from 295 in 1998 to 49 in 2015. Thirty-one states currently allow execution as a criminal penalty. California is one of them, however, no one has been executed in the state since 2006.
Can Juvenile Offenders Ever Receive The Death Sentence?
The answer is no. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juvenile cop killers violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court just recently expanded its ban on mandatory sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole to include juveniles convicted of murder.
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