Life expectancy doctrine
If an accused is imprisoned for a period equal to or longer than the period of life imprisonment while waiting to exhaust their legal remedies, then the expectancy of life can lead to reduction of sentence from death to life imprisonment.
Any mitigation is sufficient to justify a lesser sentence. Deliberately inflicting an injury on a lower part of the body, and not inflicting repeat injuries, constitutes sufficient mitigation. Additionally, where the accused has already served a long period in imprisonment the ‘expectancy of life’ arises.
Death sentence and life imprisonment are alternative sentences. If an accused has served equal to or greater than the period of a life sentence, their death sentence should be commuted to life, to then receive the death penalty would be to receive two sentences for one crime.
Mitigating factors that prevent the imposition of the death penalty include: (1) lack of premeditation – which can be evidenced by the incident occurring at the ‘spur of the moment’; (2) failure to inflict repeat injuries where there was opportunity to do so; (3) co-accused received a lesser sentence; and (4) lack of clarity about who inflicted the fatal injuries. Further, a death sentence should be commuted to life where the accused has already served a full life term of imprisonment (25 years), giving rise to the ‘expectancy of life’ doctrine.