SB 1194 - Currently, a person who pleads guilty to or is found guilty of forcible rape or sodomy of a child under the age of twelve shall receive a sentence of life imprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole for thirty years. Under this act, such crimes are punishable by either death or life imprisonment without probation, parole, or release, unless the offender has not yet reached the age of eighteen, in which case, the punishment shall only be life imprisonment without probation, parole, or release.
The crimes of forcible rape or sodomy of a child under the age of twelve are treated in the same manner as first degree murder. With limited exceptions, such crimes may not be tried together with any offense other than such offense of the same nature. At any such trial, when the death penalty has not been waived, opposing counsel shall provide each other with certain information, such as a list of witnesses and a list of mitigating or aggravating circumstances that the counsel intends to prove at the second stage of the bifurcated trial.
For such crimes, the trial shall be bifurcated into two stages unless there has been a waiver of the death penalty. The first stage shall determine only whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. The issue of punishment shall only be submitted to the trier of fact at the second stage of the trial after a finding of guilt. If the trier of fact finds the defendant guilty of such offense, evidence of mitigating and aggravating circumstances may be presented during the second stage of the trial. This act lists what types of circumstances which may be presented as evidence.
This act provides the procedural requirements for such trials and the necessary conclusions that must be made by the trier of fact to impose the death penalty. It also requires the judge to include certain considerations and information in the jury instructions when the jury is deciding whether to impose the death penalty.
Before trial, any defendant in such cases may waive the right to trial by jury. However, such waiver must be made for both stages of the trial unless there is an agreement with the state. Upon written agreement of the parties and with leave of the court, the issue of the defendant's mental retardation may be taken up by the court and decided prior to trial without prejudicing the defendant's right to have the issue submitted to the trier of fact.
As with persons who are found guilty of or plead guilty to murder in the first degree, if the death penalty is found to be unconstitutional in the future, those persons who are found guilty of or plead guilty to such crimes shall be sentenced to life imprisonment with probation, parole, or release.
SUSAN HENDERSON MOORE