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Prosecutors' wish list seeks to broaden death penalty

prison-d7f96423c0e1ee1b55c455b9266cf9d28a3d17a5-s6-c30VICKSBURG — Mississippi prosecutors are asking the Legislature to broaden the death penalty to include mass shootings and terrorist acts.

“We’re trying to make the killing of two or more persons in a single instance capital murder so that the death penalty may be used,” District Attorney Ricky Smith of Vicksburg told The Vicksburg Post.

The Mississippi Prosecutors Association’s proposal is a response to mass shootings across the county, specifically acts like the July 20, 2012, attack on a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

“Right now in Mississippi, that would not be a death penalty eligible case,” said Smith, a past president of the prosecutors’ group.

Current capital murder statutes cover the deaths of a peace officer, firefighter or county, municipal, state of other officials. It can also include murder purported by an inmate serving life in prison, a death caused by a bomb, or any death related to the commission of rape, burglary, kidnapping, arson, robbery, sexual battery, child molestation or child abuse.

The death penalty is also legal under Mississippi law for treason or hijacking of an aircraft.

Smith said prosecutors also want to rework some parts of the criminal justice overhaul that went into effect last July by making felony shoplifting easier to prosecute and updating legal definitions.

Under the law, shoplifting is only a felony if an offender has stolen more than $500 in merchandise on three or more occasions.

“As long as the perpetrator steals less than $500 every time, it can never be a felony,” Smith said.

The association is proposing to make any third offense shoplifting a felony, he said.

The Legislature convenes Tuesday in Jackson.

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