Congresswoman Shooter facing Federal Death Penalty?

Giffords.jpgWith the horrific news of the shooting of a United States Congresswoman and other innocent bystanders, many are asking whether and when her shooter will get the death penalty. The Federal Death penalty, although rarely carried out, is available for many types of crimes. As explained on the USDOJ website, these crimes generally include crimes in which “(1) the defendant is charged with a crime for which the death penalty is a legally authorized sanction, (2) the defendant intended or had a high degree of culpability with respect to the death of the victim, and (3) one or more aggravating factors specified in a statutory list are present in the case. The statutory aggravating factors include such factors as the commission of a killing in the course of another serious offense, the defendant’s having a prior criminal history involving serious violent offenses, the commission of a killing after substantial planning and premeditation, killing multiple victims, or endangering the lives of other persons (in addition to the person killed) in committing the crime. 18 U.S.C. 3591-93.(1)”
If US Representative Gabrielle Giffords does not survive, her shooter will be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 351 (murder of a member of Congress, an important executive official, or a Supreme Court Justice). However, since multiple federal employees were killed at the scene according to reports, if any were engaged in their duties (such as a congressional staffer assisting the representative in official business), the shooter can be death-penalty prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1114 (Protection of officers and employees of the United States). The general federal murder statute, 18. U.S.C. 1111, can also lead to the death penalty if the “death qualification factors” are proven.