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What Is a Capital Sentence?

Capital sentence is also referred to as death penalty in most jurisdictions. It is a severe punishment that is only given to the most severe of crimes, depending on the jurisdiction’s definition of severe crime. The term capital sentence refers to a capital crime, an offense punishable by death. There is a complicated legal process that involves capital sentences. Before a capital sentence is carried out, it is subject to 5 steps in terms of legal administration.

The first step is the actual sentencing wherein the judge hands out the capital sentence upon conviction of the defendant. The second step is direct review wherein the defendant convicted of a capital crime and punished with a capital sentence in a court trial begins an appeal. The appellate court will review the court case and can decide to affirm or reverse the sentence given. It is also possible to acquit the defendant. When the capital sentence is affirmed, it undergoes the third step, the state collateral review, which acts much like a direct review only it is carried out by the state courts. The fourth step, federal habeas corpus, is done by prisoners who have been affirmed of their sentence during state collateral review. It is a lawsuit filed by prisoners who wish to challenge the capital sentence. The fifth and last step, the section 1983 challenge, has only been a significant and fifth step recently. It involves the use of the Civil Rights Act of 1971, which was codified in 1983, in a last attempt at litigation. It is not directly an appeal, but it contests the manner in which the capital sentence will be carried out.

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