‘Death-Qualified’ Juror Search Slows Marathon, Theater Cases

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Death-Qualified’ Juror Search Slows Marathon, Theater Cases.

One prospective juror was brutally frank when asked whether he could consider a sentence of life in prison for the man accused of bombing the Boston Marathon. The process of finding “death qualified” jurors has slowed down jury selection in federal case against Tsarnaev, who is charged with setting off two bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 during the 2013 marathon.

Supreme Court said a juror can lawfully be excused if his views on the death penalty are so strong that they would prevent or substantially impair his ability to follow the law. The Capital Jury Project, a consortium of university researchers, interviewed about 1,200 jurors in 353 capital trials in 14 states beginning in the early 1990s. The group’s research has shown that death penalty juries are more likely to convict and that jurors often make up their minds about what punishment to hand down long before they’re supposed to, said William Bowers, director of the project. Juries are then supposed to weigh those factors when deciding whether a defendant should get life or death. “The principal finding is that half of the jurors said they knew what the punishment should be before the penalty stage of the trial and another one-quarter of them said they were pretty sure,” Bowers said. “The thing they don’t recognize or seem to have overlooked is that they are not supposed to decide what the punishment is until they hear the evidence in the second phase.” Death penalty opponents have argued that to get around this kind of pre-judgment, separate juries should be chosen to hear evidence in the guilt phase and the punishment phase.

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