Forecasting Life and Death: Juror Race, Religion, and Attitude Toward the Death Penalty
Posted: 5 Nov 2001
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.
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