The Deadly Paradox of Capital Jurors

Posted: 3 Oct 2000  

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Stephen P. Garvey

Cornell Law School

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

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Abstract

We examine support for the death penalty among a unique group of respondents: one hundred and eighty-seven citizens who actually served as jurors on capital trials in South Carolina. Capital jurors support the death penalty as much as, if not more than, members of the general public. Yet capital jurors, like poll respondents, harbor doubts about the penalty's fairness. Moreover, jurors?black jurors and Southern Baptists in particular?are ready to abandon their support for the death penalty when the alternative to death is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, especially when combined with a requirement of restitution. Support for the death penalty therefore exists side by side with doubts about its fairness and a distinct preference for some alternative to it. What explains this deadly paradox?

We suggest that the paradox arises where democratic politics fails to make life imprisonment without parole one of the alternatives to death, or where public education fails to inform or persuade jurors that capital defendants sentenced to life imprisonment will really remain in prison for the rest of their lives.

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and Garvey, Stephen P. and Wells, Martin T., The Deadly Paradox of Capital Jurors. Southern California Law Review, Vol. 74, No. 2, January 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=244489

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Stephen P. Garvey (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

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

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Comstock Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8801 (Phone)

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