2015 Tennessee Code
Title 39 - Criminal Offenses
Chapter 13 - Offenses Against Person
Part 2 - Criminal Homicide
§ 39-13-206 - Appeal and review of death sentence.
(a) (1) Whenever the death penalty is imposed for first degree murder and when the judgment has become final in the trial court, the defendant shall have the right of direct appeal from the trial court to the court of criminal appeals. The affirmance of the conviction and the sentence of death shall be automatically reviewed by the Tennessee supreme court. Upon the affirmance by the court of criminal appeals, the clerk shall docket the case in the supreme court and the case shall proceed in accordance with the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure.
(2) If the defendant has been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death and appeals that conviction and sentence, the record as to guilt and sentence shall be expeditiously filed with the court of criminal appeals within the time limit provision of Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rules 24 and 25. If the defendant has been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death, but does not appeal the conviction of first degree murder, then the trial court shall certify, within ninety (90) days after the judgment has become final, the record relating to punishment, and the record shall be transmitted by the clerk of the trial court to the court of criminal appeals. If the defendant has been convicted of other crimes at the same trial where a death sentence is imposed, the court of criminal appeals shall have authority to review by direct appeal the other crimes, if appealed by the defendant with the conviction of first degree murder and sentence of death.
(b) The appeal of the conviction of first degree murder and the review of the sentence of death shall have priority over all other cases and shall be heard according to the rules promulgated by the Tennessee supreme court. The reviewing courts shall first consider any errors assigned and then the courts shall review the sentence of death.
(c) (1) In reviewing the sentence of death for first degree murder, the reviewing courts shall determine whether:
(A) The sentence of death was imposed in any arbitrary fashion;
(B) The evidence supports the jury's finding of statutory aggravating circumstance or circumstances;
(C) The evidence supports the jury's finding that the aggravating circumstance or circumstances outweigh any mitigating circumstances; and
(D) The sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the nature of the crime and the defendant.
(2) The Tennessee supreme court may promulgate rules as it deems appropriate to establish such procedures as are necessary to enable the reviewing courts to properly review the death sentence.
(d) In addition to its other authority regarding correction of errors, the court of criminal appeals and the Tennessee supreme court, in reviewing the death sentence for first degree murder, are authorized to:
(1) Affirm the sentence of death; or
(2) Modify the punishment to imprisonment for life without possibility of parole or imprisonment for life.
(e) In the event that any provision of §§ 39-13-202 -- 39-13-205 or this section, or the application of the sections, to any individual or circumstance is held to be invalid or unconstitutional so as to permanently preclude a sentence of death as to that individual, the court having jurisdiction over the individual previously sentenced to death shall cause the individual to be brought before the proper court, which shall, following a sentencing hearing conducted in accordance with § 39-13-207, sentence the person to imprisonment for life without possibility of parole or imprisonment for life.
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