Forecasting Life and Death: Juror Race, Religion, and Attitude Toward the Death Penalty

Posted: 5 Nov 2001  

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Stephen P. Garvey

Cornell Law School

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

Abstract

Determining whether race, sex, or other juror characteristics influence how capital case jurors vote is difficult. Jurors tend to vote for death in strong cases and for life in weak ones no matter what their own characteristics. And a juror's personal characteristics may get lost in the process of deliberation
because the final verdict reflects the jury's will, not the individual juror's. Controlling for the facts likely to influence a juror's verdict helps isolate the influence of a juror's personal characteristics. Examining each juror's first sentencing vote reveals her own judgement before the majority works its will. Race, religion, and how strongly the juror believes death is the appropriate punishment for murder influence a capital juror's first vote, which usually determines the final vote. Because black jurors are rarely a majority of the jury's members, majority rule usually means white rule.

Suggested Citation

Eisenberg, Theodore and Garvey, Stephen P. and Wells, Martin T., Forecasting Life and Death: Juror Race, Religion, and Attitude Toward the Death Penalty. Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2, Part 1, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285116

Theodore Eisenberg (Contact Author)

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

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

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)

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

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

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