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CRM 1000-1499

1410. Death Penalty For Aircraft Piracy

A death which results from an aircraft piracy need not have occurred within the special aircraft jurisdiction in order to subject the perpetrator to enhanced penalties. All that is required is that the death be proximately caused by or "result[] from" the perpetrator's efforts to implement the hijacking. See United States v. Busic, 592 F.2d 13, 21 (2d Cir. 1978); 49 U.S.C. § 46502.

As a result of the decision in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), and United States v. Bohie, 346 F. Supp. 577 (N.D. N.Y. 1972), striking down the death penalty provision of a former version of the air piracy statute on constitutional grounds, Congress enacted a death penalty for hijackers, the former 49 U.S.C. § 46503 (previously 49 U.S.C. App. §  1473(c)).

On September 13, 1994, the special death penalty procedures for the aircraft piracy offense, then codified at 49 U.S.C.§  46503, were repealed when the death penalty provisions for numerous federal offenses were established in Title 18, United States Code, by Title VI (the "Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994") of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. See Pub. L. 103-322, Title VI, § 60003(b), 108 Stat. 1970. Under that statute, death during the commission of or attempted commission of an aircraft hijacking is a statutory aggravating factor. See 18 U.S.C. § 3592(c)(1).

The death penalty shall not be recommended without the approval of the Attorney General. See JM 9-10.000 (capital crimes) for the procedures that must be followed when a penalty of death may be applicable. Advice relating to death penalty approval and litigation is available from the Capital Crimes Unit, at (202) 353-7172.

[updated August 1999] [cited in JM 9-63.100]