Capital Case Definition

A prosecution for murder in which the prosecutor asks the jury to decide if the defendant is guilty and, if he is, whether he should be put to death. When prosecutors bring a capital case (also called a death penalty case), they must charge one or more "special circumstances" that the jury must find to be true in order to sentence the defendant to death. Each state (and the federal government) has its own list of special circumstances, but common ones include multiple murders, use of a bomb, or a finding that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.