One of the most controversial topics in criminal law today is the death penalty. On one side are victims’ families that want justice and closure. On the other side, anti-death penalty activists have religious or economic reasons for wanting to see an end to the death penalty, as it’s quite expensive to maintain a death row and provide appeals for defendants on death row.
Whatever your beliefs are on the death penalty, it’s helpful to understand the laws in your state. Maine hasn’t used capital punishment in over 125 years. However, the federal government continues to have the death penalty, so if you commit a federal crime in Maine, you could still be sentenced to death.
Maine History and Abolition of the Death Penalty
Maine was one of the older European colonies in the U.S. and has a great deal of history. Maine has had executions since the 1600s, including executions for witchcraft. Maine also executed Jeremiah Baum for treason in 1780, the only execution for something other than murder (since being a state and no longer executing “witches”).
Maine first abolished the death penalty in 1876 by legislative vote, and then reestablished it in 1883. In 1885, a botched execution leading to a slow strangulation death led to a second abolition in 1887. While there have been attempts to reinstate capital punishment in Maine, all have failed.
Maine Capital Punishment Statute
The following chart lists the capital punishment law in Maine.
Children and Capital Punishment
Since 2005, when the U.S. Supreme court ruled it unconstitutional, no state or the federal government can execute defendants who were under 18 years old when the crime occurred. On top of that, in 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court held that mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional for offenders who were children under 18 years old at the time of the crime.
By banning the death penalty for juveniles, the U.S. is no longer on par with the few countries, including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, which continue to execute children.
Getting Legal Help
While true that you can’t be sentenced to death in Maine, serious crimes can result in serious consequences, including life imprisonment. If you or someone you know is charged with a serious felony, such as homicide, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer or public defender as soon as possible.
Note: State laws are revised often; contact a knowledgeable attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify any state criminal laws you’re researching.
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