Next- The Penalty Phase
Facts that make a crime worse or more serious by such circumstances as the facts of the crime, the defendant’s prior criminal record, etc. Some aggravating circumstances are very specific, e.g., the murder of more than one victim. Other aggravators are broad, e.g., the murder was committed in a heinous, cruel or atrocious manner.
Facts that do not justify or excuse an act or offense, but may reduce the degree of moral culpability, and thereby reduce the penalty. Examples include mental impairments, deprived background, etc.
Victim Impact Statements
Statements read into the record, or presented through testimony of witnesses, during sentencing to inform the jury of the financial, physical, and psychological impact of the crime on the victim and the victim’s family.
Then-The Sentencing Phase:
Jury Sentence Recommendations
The jury considers the aggravating and mitigating circumstances surrounding the crime and the defendant and returns with a recommended sentence. In a death penalty case, the jury chooses between a death sentence and a lesser sentence of life without parole, life, or a term of years.
After considering the jury recommendation, the court formally pronounces punishment on the defendant. In some states, the judge must follow the jury recommendation. In other states, a judge may sentence without a jury, or override a jury’s recommendation.
From: Michigan State University and Death Penalty Information Center, 2000 Stages in a Capital Case.