Q: Does the law explicitly say that first degree murderers are to be sentenced to death or LWOP?
Are there any exceptions and how are these decided?
A: Capital murder is punishable by death, or by life in prison, depending upon how the jury answers the special issue questions in a case where the State seeks the death penalty. Not all murder charges are capital, however, and a non-capital murder charge will be a first-degree felony, which means the range of punishment would be 5 to 99 years or life in prison. If the defendant is convicted of murder, and raises the issue during the punishment phase of the trial that he acted under "the immediate influence of a sudden passion arising from an adequate cause", and if the jury finds this issue to be true, then the offense is a second-degree felony, with a range of punishment of 2 to 20 years imprisonment.
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