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The Utility of Witt: Understanding the Language of Death Qualification

23 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2009  

Susan D. Rozelle

Stetson University College of Law

Date Written: 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.

Keywords: death qualification, voir dire, death penalty, capital defendants, death qualified

JEL Classification: K10, K14

Suggested Citation

Rozelle, Susan D., The Utility of Witt: Understanding the Language of Death Qualification (2002). Baylor Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 3, 2002. Available at SSRN:

Susan D. Rozelle (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States

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