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NCJ Number: 119141 Find in a Library
Title: Arizona's Death Penalty: The Eighth Amendment and Exclusion of Mitigating Circumstances
Journal: Arizona State Law Journal  Volume:20  Issue:3  Dated:(Fall 1988)  Pages:779-795
Author(s): J McKay
Date Published: 1988
Page Count: 17
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article focuses on the limitations Arizona's capital sentencing statute places on a sentencer's discretion to consider mitigating circumstances.
Abstract: Because capital punishment must be consistent but also humane and sensitive to the individual's unique situation, capital sentencing procedures must be flexible enough to permit a sentencer to consider the circumstances of each case, yet limited and directed to avoid arbitrary and capricious death sentences. Arizona's capital sentencing statute reserves the death penalty for crimes above the norm of first degree murder and for defendants above the norm of first degree murderer. The statute limits the sentencer's discretion by narrowing the class of defendants who are eligible for the death penalty at each stage of the criminal process. The statute provides that the burden of establishing the existence of mitigating circumstances is on the defendant; the statute does not, however, define the burden of proof with which the defendant must establish these circumstances. Arizona's capital sentencing scheme provides sufficient guidance to satisfy the Eighth Amendment requirement that sentencing discretion be suitably directed and limited so as to minimize the risk of arbitrary and capricious action. The scheme does not satisfy the additional constitutional requirement that capital punishment be consistent, humane, and sensitive to the individual, because the death penalty in Arizona must be imposed despite the existence of mitigating information that is not proven by a preponderance of evidence. A five-step sentencing procedure is recommended to remedy deficiencies in Arizona's capital sentencing statute. 123 references.
Main Term(s): Capital punishment
Index Term(s): Arizona; Judicial discretion; Sentencing/Sanctions
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