Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Depravity of Mind Definition:

A degree of moral turpitude and psychical debasement associated with a crime such as repeated and excessive acts of physical abuse or unreasonably brutality or outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman.

Depravity of the mind can be significant as it may expose a person otherwise guilty of murder to the death penalty.

In Smith v Virginia, Justice Poff of the Supreme Court of Virginia:

"(W)e construe the words depravity of mind as used here to mean a degree of moral turpitude and psychical debasement surpassing that inherent in the definition of ordinary legal malice and premeditation."

In Search for a Consistent and Constitutional Death Penalty Law in Georgia, the authors suggest this definition:

"Depravity of mind means an utterly corrupt, perverted or immoral state of mind."

In Hance v State, Chief Justice Undercofler of the Supreme Court of Georgia noted that depravity of the mind, as an aggravating circumstance of murder or battery.

"Evidence of psychological abuse by the defendant to the victim before death where it is shown to have resulted in severe mental anguish to the victim in anticipation of physical harm may amount to serious physical abuse (i.e., torture of the victim), and also will support a finding of depravity of mind of the defendant.

"A defendant who mutilates or seriously disfigures the victim's body after death or who commits a sex act upon the victim's body after death may be found to have a depraved mind and such acts would be sufficient to show depravity of mind....

"Where it cannot be determined whether the victim was subjected to an aggravated battery or torture before death, or to mutilation or disfigurement after death, because the exact time of death or the precise act causing death cannot be ascertained, the penalty of death nevertheless may be sustained on the basis of aggravated battery or serious physical abuse before death or depravity of mind demonstrated after death."

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