The Utility of Witt: Understanding the Language of Death Qualification
Susan D. Rozelle
Stetson University College of Law
Baylor Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 3, 2002
Death qualification is the process by which prospective jurors are questioned at voir dire regarding their attitudes toward the death penalty. Those who indicate they are so opposed to capital punishment that they either (1) would not find the defendant guilty regardless of the evidence, or (2) would not consider death as a possible sentence regardless of the circumstances of the crime, are excused for cause. They are not “death qualified” and may not sit.
Others have pressed for an end to the “disturbing practice” of death qualification because it denies capital defendants their constitutional rights to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community and to an impartial jury. This article offers an understanding of the law of death qualification as it presently exists that ensures that capital defendants are provided the protections to which they are entitled, without requiring a change in the law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: death qualification, voir dire, death penalty, capital defendants, death qualified
JEL Classification: K10, K14
Date posted: August 26, 2009