(a) Where, upon a trial by jury, a person is convicted of an offense which may be punishable by death, a sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury verdict includes a finding of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance and a recommendation that such sentence be imposed. Where a statutory aggravating circumstance is found and a recommendation of death is made, the court shall sentence the accused to death. Where a statutory aggravating circumstance is not found or where a statutory circumstance is found but a recommendation of death is not made, the jury shall decide whether to recommend a sentence of life imprisonment without parole or life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Unless the jury trying the case makes a finding of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance and recommends the death sentence in its verdict, the court shall not sentence the accused to death, provided that no such finding of statutory aggravating circumstance shall be necessary in offenses of treason or aircraft hijacking. This Code section shall not affect a sentence when the case is tried without a jury or when the judge accepts a plea of guilty.
(b) During the sentencing phase before a jury, counsel for the state and the accused may present argument and the trial judge may instruct the jury:
(1) That “life without parole” means that the accused shall be incarcerated for the remainder of his or her natural life and shall not be eligible for parole unless such person is subsequently adjudicated to be not guilty of the offense for which he or she was sentenced; and
(2) That “life imprisonment” means that the accused will be incarcerated for the remainder of his or her natural life but will be eligible for parole during the term of such sentence.
(c) If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict as to sentence, the judge shall dismiss the jury and shall impose a sentence of either life imprisonment or imprisonment for life without parole.
FindLaw Codes are provided courtesy of Thomson Reuters Westlaw, the industry-leading online legal research system. For more detailed codes research information, including annotations and citations, please visit Westlaw.
FindLaw Codes may not reflect the most recent version of the law in your jurisdiction. Please verify the status of the code you are researching with the state legislature or via Westlaw before relying on it for your legal needs.