|Rose Bird ProCon.org||BACK|
Under California's current law, a convicted murderer is eligible for the death penalty or life without possibility of parole under any of the following "special circumstances":
- Murder committed intentionally and for financial gain;
- Murder where the defendant was previously convicted of first- or second-degree murder;
- Multiple murders;
- Murder with a hidden destructive device;
- Murder committed in an attempt to evade arrest or escape from custody;
- Murder through the mails with a destructive device;
- Murder of an on-duty peace officer;
- Murder of an on-duty federal agent;
- Murder of an on-duty fireman;
- Murder of a witness to a crime to prevent their testimony in a criminal proceeding;
- Retaliatory murder of a prosecutor;
- Retaliatory murder of a judge;
- Retaliatory murder of an elected official;
- Murder that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel1;
- Murder committed by someone lying in wait;
- Murder committed because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin;
- Murder during or directly after the commission of robbery, rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson, and other designated felonies;
- Murder involving torture;
- Murder by poison.
Under California's current law, once a jury finds a defendant guilty of murder under any of these special circumstances, there are only two sentences that can be considered during the penalty phase: a death sentence or life without the possibility of parole.
1 Ruled unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in People v. Supreme Court (Engert), 31 Cal 3d 797, 1982.