Summary: Choosing Jury In Death Penalty Cases

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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

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