Capital Murder in Texas: Understanding the Crimes and Penalties – Dallas Capital Murder Defense Attorneys

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Capital murder is one of the most serious crimes that can be committed in the state of Texas. Understanding the laws can help with your defense.

According to Texas law, all types and degrees of murder are classified as a criminal homicide. Any crime of murder is serious, and if issued a conviction, it can carry the most severe of consequences for criminal acts. While first-degree murder is viewed as the highest level charged, capital murder is a type of first-degree murder in which the minimum sentence is life imprisonment, with or without parole depending on the age of the defendant. If you have any kind of capital murder case contact:

Understanding Capital Murder – The Texas Penal Code

Several distinctions define the difference between murder and capital murder in the Texas Penal Code. Any first-degree murder charge has the potential to be elevated to capital murder if the crime meets specific requirements. We can interpret Texas Penal Code § 19.02(b)(1) to define a crime of capital murder as murder with one or more of the following conditions:

  • The act of murder was committed against a peace officer or fireman while they were performing their lawful duties, and the accused knew that the individual was a peace officer or fireman.
  • The murder occurs while carrying out or attempting to carry out one of the following felony crimes – kidnapping, burglary, arson, aggravated sexual assault, obstruction or retaliation, or a terrorist threat.
    The murder was committed for payment or promise of payment. In a case of murder for hire, both the person who kills the other person and the person who hired them to commit the act can be guilty of felony murder.
  • A murder that occurs during an escape, or an attempted escape, from a penal institution.
  • The killing of an employee of a penal institution committed by an incarcerated individual.
  • Murder committed by an incarcerated individual in conjunction with organized criminal activity.
  • Killing of another person by an individual who is presently incarcerated for murder or capital murder.
  • Murder committed by a person incarcerated for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery.
  • Murder of a person under the age of 10 years old.
  • Murder of a judge or justice, as retaliation or on account of the judge or justice’s service.

Capital Murder and the Texas Death Penalty

Aside from life imprisonment, the other possible punishment for convicted capital murder is the Texas death penalty. Texas is currently one of 31 states that supports and allows the sentencing of the death penalty, also known as capital punishment, for certain crimes that are determined to be especially heinous.

When delivering a guilty verdict in a capital murder case, the jury is instructed to make a decision on special issues, which will determine whether a sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty will be served. Anyone convicted over the age of 18 of capital murder will serve a minimum sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

In cases where the defendant is under the age of 18 years, the minimum sentence is still life imprisonment, but with the possibility of future parole.

Sentencing and Special Issues in a Capital Murder Case

As mentioned earlier, to issue a sentence of the death penalty in a capital murder case there are special issues that must be reviewed by the jury. When a jury returns a guilty verdict, the judge then gives them instructions to answer two special issues which will be used to determine the penalties of the case.

  • Special Issue Number 1 – asks the jury to decide whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.
  • Special Issue Number 2 – asks the jury to decide if the defendant actually caused the death of the deceased or did not actually cause the death of the deceased but intended to kill the deceased or anticipated that another human life would be taken.

Answering yes, to either one or both of the special issues, must be done without reasonable doubt and with at least 10 of the jurors in agreement.

In the case that the jury answers yes to both Special Issues, jurors will then be asked to review Special Issue Number 3. This Special Issue asks the jury to take into consideration all the evidence, the defendant’s character, background and moral culpability in determining if there are significant mitigating circumstances to issue a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, rather than the death penalty.

For the court to issue capital punishment in a capital murder case, the jury must answer yes to both Special Issue Number 1 and Special Issue Number 2, while answering no to Special Issue Number 3.

When You Need a Dallas Capital Murder Defense Attorney

Capital murder charges are among the most serious that someone can face. Anyone in this position should immediately contact a Dallas capital murder defense attorney to discuss their case. Legal teams with experience in capital murder charges can understand the intricacies of your case and can work on creating a defense that will protect your freedom and possibly your life.

If you are looking at a crime that could potentially be charged as capital murder, there is no time to waste. Contact our experienced Dallas Capital Murder Defense Lawyer with an aggressive approach to representing you in your case.

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Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.