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Running Head REACTION PAPER 2 1 The Effects of Death Qualification on Jurors Predisposition to Convict and on the Quality of Reaction Paper 2 Deliberation Isalet Otero Mendez Professor Maria Hartwig April 9 2014 REACTION PAPER 2 Abstract The study The Effects of Death Qualification on Jurors Predisposition to Convict and on the Quality of Deliberation was conducted to determine whether people who are permitted to partake on juries in capital cases are more inclined to convict a defendant than those individuals who are excluded from participating on capital juries due to their indisposition to impose the death penalty Keywords capital defendant death penalty juries predisposition 2 3 REACTION PAPER 2 Throughout the years legal scholars and social scientists have proposed a number of notions surrounding jurors and grand juries which range from how do they examine eye witness evidence and testimonies how do they evaluate expert witness testimonies as well as an array of other problematic issues surrounding jurors and their decisions made in a court of law However one notion and an important question that many scholars have tried to assess and are still trying to evaluate until this day is whether jurors who are death qualified are more prone to find defendants guilty than jurors who are hesitant to impose the death penalty The study conducted by Claudia L Cowan William C Thompson and Phoebe C Ellsworth 1984 was completed to determine whether the notion stated previously is a feasible proposition and something that should be considered and should be of concern during capital cases In other words this study was conducted to assess whether death qualified jurors were more prone to find defendants guilty than jurors who are not death qualified Hence I will be exposing some weaknesses and conceivable areas of the study that can be improved The Effects of Death Qualification on Jurors Predisposition to Convict and on the Quality of Deliberation Cowan Thompson Ellsworth 1984 A possible limitation of the study was how the overall Witherspoon questions were addressed and written For example Now assume that you have been called as a possible juror in a first degree murder trial The prosecutor is asking for the death sentence Since this is a case where the death penalty may be imposed the judge will ask you certain questions about your attitude toward the death penalty before deciding whether you should be chosen to serve on the jury this statement alone could have possibly hinted the participants on what researchers where trying to actually assess thus possibly causing some individuals to not answer completely truthfully Therefore this could have been improved by possibly administering a Likert scale test regarding overall death penalty beliefs instead of directly asking participants what they would do in a case of capital punishment and whether or not they would ever a I would be unwilling to vote to impose it in any case b I would consider voting to impose it in some cases These types of questions and also their answers can be subjected to a number of interpretations if the context in which the jurors either answer yes or not is not taken into account Therefore as mention previously a Likert scale test provides a better way of assessing these kinds of questions because it is less likely to be subjected to individual interpretation due to that the Likert scale uses numerical values to make such assessments Moreover test such as the Likert scale are more measureable and provide statistical data that can then be interpret better than those drawn answers drawn from test based on participants answers that might be free to subjective interpretation Another limitation and this aspect of the study is that those that were place on the excluded group this decision was mainly based on ambiguous responses from the participants regarding whether they would not vote for the death penalty This initial and crucial aspect of the study failed to take into account that maybe those who answer ambiguously did because they were probably taking into consideration possible reasons of why or why not voting for the death penalty but not necessary because of their subjective believes In other words they were probably thinking in which situation they would give a death penalty or not give one thus this is why their answers reflected were not very clear and subjected to this interpretation from the experimenters This decisions mainly based on assumptions from the experimenters could have been limited by asking the participants what a number of questions in a Likert Scale manner that could have possibly reveal their true positions regarding death qualification 4 REACTION PAPER 2 Another weakness of this study was during the video tape reenactment According to Hastie all actors set to the side and engaged in a spontaneous improvisation closely following the original case my issue with this is if the video supposedly was following an actual homicide case as a guide and the video was created following this original case but actors were allowed to spontaneously improvise some of their parts how closely were they actually following the original case to its core Therefore if the video was created after an actual case it would have been more conducive to instruct the actors how to perform since they were using an actual case as a guideline and consequently making it more comparable to the original s case findings The following aspect of the study might not be seen as a flaw overall but there is definitely space for improvement in this area of the experiment which was the jury size of the groups in the experiment Many scholars have proposed that throughout the legal system jury size number composition differentiate greatly and have found that the size of juries vary in the way they evaluate aspects of a case such as evidence recall accuracy and more According to Kaushik Mukhopadhaya 2003 in recent years the United States have stated that juries composed of 6 jurors are inferior to those composed of 12 and the Judicial Conference of the United States Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure has proposed a rule change for the number of jurors participating in delivering a verdict Their recommendation conveys the idea to reestablish the 12 jury size group composition only However little have they identified of why they assert their reasoning as completely correct Hence Kaushik Mukhopadhaya s study in 2003 was conducted

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JJC PSY 311 - The Effects of Death Qualification

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