- Capital Jury Project
The Capital Jury Project (CJP) is a consortium of university-based research studies on the decision-making of
jurorsin death penaltycases in the United States. It was founded in 1991 and is supported by the National Science Foundation(NSF). The goal of the CJP is to determine whether jurors' sentencing decisions conform to the constitution and do not reflect the arbitrary decisions the United States Supreme Courtfound when it ruled the death penalty unconstitutionalin Furman v. Georgia.cite web
title=Capital Jury Project
accessdate=2007-10-18 ] That 1972 Supreme Court decision eliminated the death penalty which was not reinstated until
Gregg v. Georgiain 1976.cite web
title=The Capital Jury Project
In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in
McCleskey v. Kempthat statistics showed that blacks in Georgia were more likely to be sentenced to deaththan whites, but concluded that the evidence of specific racial discriminationin McCleskey's case was lacking so McCleskey's death sentencewas not unconstitutional. [cite web
title=McCleskey v. Kemp (1987)
accessdate=2007-10-19 ] However, this decision raised the issue of whether the problem of
arbitraryor racist death penalties has been resolved.
The CJP is a continuing
researchprogram. Its findings are based on a standard protocol of in-depth interviews with past jurors in capital punishment trials. The interviews seek to identify the jury decision-makingthroughout a trial and identify the ways in which jurors make their sentencing decisions. The CJP has recently been expanded to examine the role played by jurors’ race in making death penalty decisions.
This work represents a significant advance over prior studies of jury behavior, most of which have been conducted on samples of students who simulated jury behavior in mock trials.cite web
title=Commentary: Expert Testimony as a Potential Asset in Defense of Capital Sentencing Cases
publisher=Journal of the Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Data collectionfor CJP is being gathered in the states that have the most variation in death penalty sentencing. Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texasand Virginiawere chosen for in-depth juror interviews. As of October, 2007, 1198 jurors from 353 capital trials in 14 states have been interviewed. [cite web
title=Crossing Racial Boundaries: A Closer Look At the Roots of Racial Bias in Capital Sentencing When the Defendant is Black and the Victim is White
Weighing factors in a death penalty case and making a decision "beyond a reasonable doubt" is a complex task with many complicating factors and weighted with moral responsibility.
Trials are conducted using legal termsthat the jury may not understand. Jurors may be uncertain about their alternatives in making decisions.cite web
title=Jury Instructions: Jurors’ Understandings and Misunderstandings
The first important paper on the findings of the CJP so far documents that jurors do not rely on
expert testimonyto evaluate the defendant's dangerousness but are influenced by expert testimony regarding the defendant's mental illnessand mental instability. Jurors accept that mental health professionals have expertise on issues of mental illness and tend to accept expert testimony on the subject. However, expert testimony on the potential dangerousness of the defendant was not related to jury opinion. On these issue it appears that jurors rely on common sense since there is no evidence that experts of any kind can predict dangerousness and jurors disregard expert testimony accordingly.
The findings also show that race is a significant factor. If the defendant is white, the jury is more likely to evaluate him as mentally unstable than if he were black. Also, the jury was more likely to see the defendant as dangerous if the victim were white. Some admit overtly to
racial prejudiceand some voice seemingly unwitting racially prejudiced beliefs. [cite web
title=Death penalty decision-making detailed in prof’s new book
accessdate=2007-10-18 ] As noted below, the race of the victim plays a substantial role in whether the jury finds
mitigating factors that would allow a lesser sentence than the death penalty.
One review of the CJP data showed that jurors who were asked a hypothetical question regarding how much certain
mitigating factors would influence their sentencing decisions were true, 56.2 percent of the jurors would consider a lesser sentence than death if a history of mental illnesswas presented as a mitigating factorand 73.6 percent would do so if evidence of mental retardation were presented. However, another review of the data showed the race of the victim had a substantial effect on jury failure to find mitigating factors. If the victim were white there was more failure to find mitigating factors.
There is evidence from the study that jurors are confused or misled by the judge's instructions to the jury. Jurors often appear to make decisions from
personal experienceand personal moral guidelines instead. Findings from jurors interviewed show that 50% of the jurors admit to making death penalty decisions before the death penalty phaseof the trial has begun, and 45% did not understand that they could consider any mitigating evidence during the penalty phase, not just the factors listed in the judge's instructions. [cite web
title=Introduction to Criminal Justice - The Capital Jury Project
In fact, one
researchersays that the pattern emerging from the CJP data is that jurors have serious misconceptions about the death penalty process, leading to confusion that produces a biasin favor of the death penalty, and concludes that the CJP research indicates that the jury decision making process is so flawed that it violated constitutional principles.cite web
title=Death By Design: Capital Punishment As A Social Psychological System
* [http://www.albany.edu/scj/CJPhome.htm Capital Jury Project Website]
* [http://library.albany.edu/speccoll/ndpa.htm National Death Penalty Archive]
* [http://www.albany.edu/scj/cpri.htm Capital Punishment Research Initiative]
* [http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/ Death Penalty Information Center]
* [http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/lpbr/subpages/reviews/haines.htm Against Capital Punishment: The Anti-Death Penalty Movement in American 1972–1994]
* [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=358521 The Capital Jury and Empathy: The Problem of Worthy and Unworthy Victims]
* [http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2005/oct/penalty100604.html Study challenges juvenile death penalty]
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