Correcting Deadly Confusion: Responding to Jury Inquiries in Capital Cases

30 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2011  

Paul Marcus

William & Mary Law School

Stephen P. Garvey

Cornell Law School

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: 1999

Abstract

In Weeks v. Angelone, 528 U.S. 225 (2000), the members of the capital sentencing jury asked for clarification of the jury instructions on the essential question of whether they were required to sentence Weeks to death upon the finding of certain aggravating factors. The judge merely informed the jurors to reread the instruction. The jurors returned with a death penalty sentence. The Supreme Court held that these jurors likely understood the instructions and at most Weeks had shown a slight possibility that the jurors believed they were precluded from considering mitigating evidence. However, the results of a mock jury study conducted by the authors strongly suggest that the Supreme Court's conclusion was incorrect. In fact, many jurors receiving the subject instruction do believe that they cannot weigh mitigating evidence. The Supreme Court's finding that the jurors in Weeks' trial understood the sentencing instruction was based on mere instinct and was likely incorrect.

Keywords: Weeks, Angelone, capital, sentencing, jury, death, aggravating, fators, penality, mitigating, evidence, and instruction

Suggested Citation

Marcus, Paul and Garvey, Stephen P. and Johnson, Sheri Lynn, Correcting Deadly Confusion: Responding to Jury Inquiries in Capital Cases (1999). Cornell Law Review, Vol. 85, No. 3, 1999-2000; William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-81. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1774870

Paul Marcus (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
757-221-3900 (Phone)
757-221-3261 (Fax)

Stephen P. Garvey

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-8589 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-6478 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

Paper statistics

Downloads
45
Abstract Views
905