Death Qualification: Choosing Jury in Death Penalty Cases Death qualification is a process unique to capital trials in which prospective jurors are questioned about their beliefs regarding the death penalty. Courts can eliminate potential jurors who are not willing to vote for the death penalty in a capital case. If the judge believes that a juror 's feelings about the death penalty would impair his or her ability to judge the case and choose the punishment fairly, that juror will be dismissed "for cause." There is an unlimited number of "for cause" challenges and typically all jurors who say that they oppose the death penalty are excluded. Jurors who are not eliminated by the judge "for cause" because of their death penalty views can be eliminated …show more content…
Illinois (1968). The Supreme Court held that prospective jurors could not be disqualified from jury service simply because they voiced general objections to the death penalty or expressed conscientious or religious scruples against it. However, a state may exclude those jurors who would automatically vote against the death penalty or those jurors whose attitudes about the death penalty would affect their decision regarding the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Wainwright v. Witt (1985). The Supreme Court replaced the death qualification standards of Witherspoon with the standards of Wainwright v. Witt. The Witt standard gave more discretion to the judge in death qualification. The judge decides whether the jurors’ attitudes toward the death penalty would “prevent or substantially impair” their ability to decide on sentence fairly. This decision broadened the range of people who could be excluded by death …show more content…
As a result, capital juries tend to be whiter and more dominated by males than are juries in other cases. It has been suggested that as a result of this, capital juries are about 43% more likely to sentence a killer to die if his victim is white. Undeniably, capital juries show some racial disparities in their sentencing decisions. If juries in capital cases were not subject to death-qualification procedures, there is little reason to believe these racial disparities would survive. The solution, some might suggest, to minimize racial discrepancies in capital sentencing is to eliminate the ability of prosecutors to disqualify anyone with qualms about capital punishment from the jury pool. Jury selection in capital cases often takes weeks, if not months, as the “death qualified” jurors are isolated by the State. Numerous studies have shown that those who survive the death qualification process are inherently biased towards conviction. People who have no qualms about the death penalty favor the State. They would be more likely to convict in a jay-walking
Click here to unlock this and over one million essaysShow More
In November 1978, Proposition 7 passed in California which created automatic appeals on death penalty cases, “cases in which the death penalty has been decreed are automatically reviewed by the California Supreme Court” (par. 19.). The automatic review created a system where every death sentence would be reviewed by the California Supreme Court. This is one cause of court delays in the appeal process. Scott Howe is a researcher at Chapman University School of law who investigated the severe backlog of cases to be heard by the courts. Howe observed that “death sentences have been generated in the trial courts at a much greater rate than they have been resolved on direct appeal” (1452).
The judge on the other hand, has a set list of questions they must ask the jurors. The only requirement for eliminating jurors during the Voir- Dire is that no juror can be excused based on race. The attorneys each have a set amount of preemptory excuses they can use as well, with which they can excuse jurors
Over 1,300 prospective jurors completed questionnaires for a chance to serve on a panel of jurors in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Boston Marathon Bombing trial. Of those prospective jurors, the judge presiding over the trial narrowed down the jury pool to just over 250 people through the process of voir dire. By personally interviewing each prospective juror individually, the judge is able to determine which of those jurors are the most qualified and competent to serve on a trial jury. The 250 jury prospects were eventually whittled down to a mere 18, 12 of whom sat on the jury panel for the duration of the trial and 6 of whom were alternates.
The jury system continued to evolve over a period of time and eventually the United States Constitution was written to govern the jury system. The Sixth and Seventh Amendments stated that we should have 12 members and the cases were to be resolved upon a unanimous verdict (Landsman & Holderman2010). In the 1970’s the court approved juries of 12 or fewer and a non-unanimous verdict in civil cases in federal court cases. Since the evolution of the judicial system it has become easier to get jurors to come to court to do their civil duty. A list is compiled of selected jurors from voter registration and driver’s license information from the state (United States Courts, n.d.).
The role of the jury in capital cases Capital cases that include the death penalty are carefully analyzed and structured to allow the fairest due process. The selection of the jurors is one of the most crucial parts of the case. Attorneys and judges have to come to an agreement on who will serve on the jury before the case goes to trial. There have been many cases that have argued the selection of the jurors, for example, Uttecht v. Brown, Lockhart v. McCree, and many others. These cases have faced controversy due to the selection of jurors and have set precedents for new and present cases.
144 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973 (Levy 1). People exonerated and convicts sent to prison for crimes they did not commit have been given unfair trials. If a trial court makes a legal error, a party can file an appeal, which raises the question on whether the United States appeals process is even effective in criminal cases (The Judicial Learning Center 1). Understanding the effectiveness of the appeals process for criminal cases is essential for improving it to ensure people are not exonerated or unjustly punished.
Another reason citizens question juries is that they have bias from personal experience or the media. The defendant and the prosecution criticize the jury system because the actual jurors may not understand the situation from any point of view because they come from different lifestyles (Doc E). The American jury system is not a good idea anymore because juries are not experts in law, they have bias, and are not “a jury of peers”. Because jurors are not experts in law, they are subject to be
A jury is a group of twelve people that are over eighteen who determine if the accused is guilty at the end of a criminal trial. (fedcourt, 2023) If chosen from the electoral roll for jury duty, the person must attend unless they have a criminal record, a part of the legal system, have health reasons or served jury duty in the past twelve months. (Courts Administration Authority, 2023) The jury system requires reform to avoid a repeat of the Chamberlain case as complex information can be too hard to understand and the accountability of jurors is not high when making their verdict.
According to the legal system, there are eight steps in a jury trial. These steps took several years to be put in placed around the country. The eight steps are the "selection of the jury, opening statement of both sides, presentation of evidences and witnesses, closing statement of sides, jury instructions, deliberations, verdict, and sentencing" (Zalman, 2011, p. 35). The first step of the jury trial is the jury selections, which is extremely beneficial to help, determined which jurors should severed on this jury. Both sides allowed examining all of the jurors to determine if there any difference in interest.
Another issue that was discussed is the inequality of death penalty in practice. There have been serious issues with racial discrimination. For reference in cases with white victims and black defendants convictions occurred twenty two percent of the time while with black victims and white defendants with percentage dropped to a measly three
The US court has always strived to practice moral standards, while imparting a fair punishment upon its victims, but when it comes to the death penalty, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. The first execution in America happened in 1608 in Virginia. In 1612 laws such as the Divine Moral and Martial Laws, were created. These laws used the death penalty for even minor offenses. In the 1930’s executions reached the highest levels in American history at 167 per year.
This essay will briefly discuss the role of the jury and how it works, from the principle behind it, to the method with which members are selected, and to the powers available to jurors. Moreover, it will outline advantages and disadvantages of trial by jury, and it will point out a couple of ways which could ameliorate this type of trial. Trial by jury has been a part of the criminal justice system since the 12th century (Davies, 2015), it is considered an ancient right and a symbol of liberty (Hostettler, 2004). It creates no precedent and it can decide challenging cases equitably without making bad law, it also brings members of the public into the administration of justice and into an understanding of legal and human rights (Hostettler,
10% of defendants sentenced to death volunteer for execution, but what about the people to sentence to die in prison. The death penalty should be a voluntary choice for all inmates/ defendants sentenced to life imprisonment, since sentencing a person to life without parole is civil death, rehabilitation is not an option for them, and many inmates prefer death over life sentences. Morality is the biggest decision maker when deciding whether to take another person’s life and will depend on the person you ask. The dilemma created from the death penalty would be utilized to assist an “inmate’s last wish”. Giving sentenced defendants the option to die counter the thought of it being a murder and closer towards assisted suicide.