Responsibility for Deciding Who Dies

Wanda Foglia, Rowan University
William J. Bowers, Northeastern University

In most states with the capital punishment the jury decides the defendant's sentence. Capital Jury Project interviews with 1201 from 354 trials in 14 states reveals many problems with the way jurors make these sentencing decision. Many jurors do not see themselves as primarily responsible for the decision and do not believe the defendant will ever be executed if they sentence him or her to death. The U.S. Supreme Court maintains that juries should make the findings upon which a death sentence is based (Ring v. Arizona, 2002), and that a sentence imposed by jurors who do not see themselves as responsible is not reliable (Caldwell v. Mississippi). Analysis of the quantitative data from the juror interviews will reveal what types of jurors are most likely to see themselves as responsible and how this affects their decision-making. Excerpts from the narrative comments of the jurors will provide further insights into how they view their responsibility for deciding who dies.

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Updated 05/20/2006