Pennsylvania’s List of Aggravating Circumstances in Death Penalty Cases

by | May 15, 2014 | Injuries

In Pennsylvania death penalty cases, where the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, the prosecution must prove that there is an aggravating factor present to warrant the death penalty.

The PA Legislature set forth a list of factors that are deemed aggravating for this purpose: the victim was a member of a protected class (such as law enforcement) and was killed in the performance of his duties or because of his official position as a member of the protected class, the defendant was paid or paid for the killing, the victim was being held for ransom or reward or as a shield or hostage prior to the killing, the death of the victim occurred while the defendant was engaged in the hijacking of an aircraft, the victim was a prosecution witness to a murder or other felony committed by the defendant and was killed to silence the witness, the defendant committed the killing while in the perpetration of a felony, in commission of the offense the defendant created a grave risk of death to another person in addition to the victim of the offense, the offense was committed by means of torture, the defendant has a significant history of felony convictions involving the use or threat of violence to the person, the defendant has been convicted of another offense for which the sentence is life imprisonment or death or the defendant was serving a sentence for life or death at the time of the killing, the defendant has committed another murder in another jurisdiction, the defendant has been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the defendant committed the killing or was an accomplice to the killing while in the commission of a felony under the controlled substance act, the victim and the defendant were in competition for selling drugs at the time of the killing, at the time of the killing, the victim was an informant, the victim was a child under the age of 12 years, the defendant was restricted from contacting the victim pursuant to a protection from abuse order.

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