When a defendant is tried for first degree murder, there is a separate penalty hearing. If a jury determined the guilt of the defendant, that same jury will make a decision on penalty during the penalty hearing. If the defendant pled guilty or guilty but mentally ill and the case is a death penalty case, then a jury is specifically convened for a penalty hearing.
During the penalty hearing, the jury hears evidence from the prosecutor and defendant on aggravating and mitigating circumstances and can sentence a defendant to death if there is at least one aggravating circumstance that justifies the imposition of this penalty and no mitigating circumstances which outweigh the aggravating circumstance. However, if a defendant is to be sentenced to death, the decision of the jury must be unanimous. If the jury does not come to a unanimous decision, the Nevada code provides instructions for what should occur.
The penalty phase in a first degree murder case is extremely important, because this decision can determine whether you have any possibility of a future after conviction. You need an extremely knowledgable Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer to represent you during the penalty phase so you can have the best chance of getting the minimum possible penalty. LV Criminal Defense provides representation to clients during both the initial phase of first degree murder trials in which guilt is determined, and provides representation during the penalty phase. Give us a call today to learn more.
Nevada Revised Statute section 175.556 explains what happens when a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict during the penalty phase after a first degree murder conviction. According to the relevant statute, there are two primary options in a case where the death penalty is sought. One option is for the district judge who conducted the trial or accepted the defendant’s plea to sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other option of the district judge is to impanel a new jury who will consider the evidence and make a decision on the death penalty.
If the jury is presiding over a penalty hearing and the death penalty is not being sought, then the trial judge will impose a sentence on the defendant in cases where a jury is not able to reach a unanimous decision.
When the jury does reach a decision and determines that the death penalty is appropriate, the jury has to render its decision in writing. The written verdict has to be signed by the foreman and according to N.R.S. 175.554, the verdict has to specify what circumstance or circumstances constituted the aggravating factor(s) which resulted in the jury’s decision. The written verdict also had to specify that no mitigating circumstances existed which the jury believed should outweigh the aggravating factors.
It has been more than a decade since the last person was executed in Nevada, but the stakes are still very high when there is the possibility of a death sentence or a sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. You need to make sure you have the strongest possible legal advocate on your side if you are faced with a conviction for first degree murder.
LV Criminal Defense works hard to help people accused of murder to avoid being found guilty. We can advise you of options to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge or to fight for an acquittal. You should contact us as soon as accusations against you are made and we will try very hard to help ensure your case never gets to the penalty hearing. If you are ever found guilty, we also fight hard during the penalty phase of your case.
Give us a call as soon as possible to find out more about the assistance our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers provide in first degree murder cases.