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The suspension of the execution of the death penalty for a period of time.
Reprieve is generally an act of clemency that is extended to a prisoner in order to give him or her an opportunity to find a means or reason for reducing the sentence imposed.
The term reprieve is also used generally in reference to the withdrawal of any sentence for a period of time.
n. a temporary delay in imposition of the death penalty (a punishment which cannot be reduced afterwards) by the executive order of the Governor of the state. Reasons for reprieves include the possibility of newly-discovered evidence (another's involvement, evidence of mental impairment), awaiting the result of some last-minute appeal, or concern of the Governor that there may have been some error in the record which he/she should examine. On occasion a reprieve has saved a man found to be innocent. Upon the expiration of the reprieve the date for execution can be reset and the death penalty imposed. A reprieve is only a delay and is not a reduction of sentence, commutation of sentence, or pardon.
REPRIEVE, crim. law practice. This term is derived from reprendre, to take
back, and signifies the withdrawing of a sentence for an interval of time,
and operates in delay of execution. 4 Bl. Com. 394. It is granted by the
favor of the pardoning power, or by the court who tried the prisoner.
3. Reprieves are sometimes granted ex necessitate legis; for example, when a woman is convicted of a capital offence, after judgment she may allege pregnancy in delay of execution. In order, however, to render this plea available she must be quick with child, (q.v.) the law presuming, perhaps absurdly enough, that before that period, life does not commence in the foetus. 3 Inst. 17; 2 Hale, 413; 1 Hale, 368; 4 Bl. Com. 395.
4. The judge is also bound to grant a reprieve when the prisoner becomes insane. 4 Harg. St. Tr. 205, 6; 3 Inst. 4; Hawk B. 1, c. 1, s. 4; 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 757.