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Capital Punishment Defense

A Nevada Lawyer Explains Capital Crimes and Defenses in Death Penalty Cases

Death Penalty LVThe death penalty is extremely controversial in the United States, and there have been recorded cases throughout the country’s history of people sent to death row and subsequently exonerated.  If you are on trial for a criminal offense that could carry a death sentence if convicted, you are literally fighting for your life.  You need an extremely experienced criminal defense lawyer who can handle your case and help you to fight conviction or fight for life in prison or a lesser sentence. If you have already been sentenced to death, it is still not too late to appeal your conviction and fight for a future.

LV Criminal Defense is a Nevada criminal defense firm with experience in capital crimes and death penalty defense cases.  Our legal team understands the state and federal laws, the death penalty appeals process, and the legal procedures for arguing against a death sentence.

We will fight passionately to help defendants accused of the most serious crimes in the justice system to protect their lives.  Call to speak with an experienced attorney to learn about what options you have, no matter what phase your capital case is in.

When Can a Nevada Defendant Face the Death Penalty?

The death penalty is reserved for conviction for the most serious of criminal offenses.  In Nevada, a defendant may only face charges carrying a possible death sentence for first degree murder- never for second degree murder.  Homicide crimes that may result in a charge of first degree murder include:

  • Premeditated and intentional killings, including situations where a defendant waited for the victim, poisoned the victim, tortured the victim, or otherwise showed signs of a premeditated, deliberate, willful attempt to cause death.
  • Killings that occur in the commission of a felony, even if the victim’s death was accidental.
  • Killings that occur to avoid lawful custody or arrest.
  • Killings on school grounds, on a school bus, or during school activity where it was clear that the conduct would endanger lives.
  • Murders committed as part of terrorist acts.

While it is possible to be faced with the death penalty for these types of killings, not all homicide crimes necessarily could result in a death sentence, even when charged with first degree murder. There must be aggravating factors that exist that justify the imposition of a death sentence.  Nevada Revised Statute Section 200.033 outlines the situations under which it may be possible for a defendant to be given a death sentence. These include:

  • Murder committed while imprisoned.
  • Murder committed by someone who has already been convicted of a prior murder or certain other violent felonies.
  • Murder in a situation in which other people were put at significant risk of death.
  • Murder committed in the commission of robbery, home invasion, kidnapping, or first degree burglary with the intent to kill or with knowledge of lethal force.
  • Murder committed to try to escape custody.
  • Murder for hire.
  • Murder of a police officer engaged in official duties.
  • Murder involving torture or mutilation.
  • Multiple murders of random victims.
  • Murder of a victim under age 14.
  • Murder as part of a hate crime in which the victim was chosen based on race, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.
  • Murder committed during a rape or an attempted rape.
  • Murder as part of a school activity.
  • Murder as part of an act of terrorism.

Just because aggravating factors exist, does not guarantee a defendant will be given the death penalty. It just means a death penalty is a possible sentence as an alternative to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.

Federal Death Penalty Cases

 A defendant may also face the death penalty when convicted of certain federal crimes including, but not limited to:

  • Murder related to smuggling aliens.
  • Murder committed during a drive-by-shooting connected to drugs.
  • Murder of congressmen, federal judges or law enforcement officials and other important political servants or foreign officials.
  • Genocide
  • Murder to prevent a witness or informant from testifying in a criminal trial.
  • Murder in connection with rape, child molestation, or sexual exploitation of children.
  • Murders connected with terrorism.
  • Murder related to an ongoing criminal enterprise.

LV Criminal Defense provides representation in federal death penalty cases, as well as state death penalty cases.

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Defenses and Legal Assistance in Death Penalty Cases

Because of the high stakes in death penalty cases, it is imperative to have the right lawyer from the start. Your attorney can help you to explore ways to try to avoid conviction entirely if it is possible to undermine evidence, present alternative theories of the crime, raise affirmative defenses, or make a jury doubt the prosecutor’s evidence.

Nick Wooldridge – your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney – will also try to negotiate to get the prosecutor to take the death penalty off the table, or will attempt to undermine the argument that there is aggravating factors.  Having the right lawyer to represent you both during the trial phase and during sentencing can literally mean the difference between life and death.  At sentencing, your lawyer can present character witnesses, introduce evidence of mitigating circumstances, and make a compelling argument to the jury about why a different sentence other than death is appropriate in your criminal cases.

Death Penalty Appeals Process

A direct appeal is always available to defendants sentenced to death in capital crime cases.  In a direct appeal, it is possible to re-litigate issues raised during trial.  Making compelling legal arguments is imperative, because the high court can reverse the conviction, or reverse the sentence of death.

Defendants may also file additional appeals post-conviction, including ultimately filing a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States in appropriate cases.  In addition to filing appeals, a defendant can seek a stay of execution from the state government or the President of the United States, or higher state or federal courts.  This can provide a delay, and make more time for legal arguments to overturn the death sentence.

The death penalty appeals process is a complicated process in which a knowledgeable and experienced legal advocate should explore all possible ways to avoid the carrying out of a death sentence.  Almost one in five defendants in Nevada who were sentenced to death have been permanently removed from death row due to legal action[1], so having a good lawyer really can make a substantial difference in determining if you will have a future.

LV Criminal Defense has experience with appeals in capital cases, and can step in at any stage to help you fight to avoid a death sentence being carried out.

A Nevada Death Penalty Lawyer Can Help

Nicholas Wooldridge believes that when a defendant is sentenced to the ultimate punishment in the criminal justice system, he deserves the best and most vigorous defense.

If you are facing charges for a capital crime or have already been convicted and sentenced to death, contact us as soon as possible. Let our legal team go to work to fight hard to help you stay alive.

 

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