Jury Understanding of Judges' Instructions in Capital Cases

Research has shown that jurors in many types of cases frequently fail to understand the jury instructions they receive. However, this failure to understand has special implications in capital, or death penalty, cases. As in other cases, juror comprehension of instructions in death penalty cases is very low, and the difficulty of some of the terms and concepts used in the death penalty context exacerbates their confusion. But this misunderstanding carries with it an additional set of consequences in capital cases. Not only will jurors who misunderstand a judge's instructions in a death penalty case have difficulty in applying the law accurately, but these jurors may also be more easily influenced by bias or prejudice in their decision-making process and may be more likely to ...

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