Death Qualification of Juries

Death qualification is a unique form of jury selection that is used only in capital cases. Potential jurors are screened beforehand on the basis of their attitudes toward death penalty, and persons holding “disqualifying” attitudes or beliefs about capital punishment are dismissed from further participation. In the late 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court established the standard by which prospective jurors could be constitutionally excluded from service on a capital jury as one of “unequivocal opposition” (i.e., if the prospective juror said that he or she could never impose the death penalty no matter what the facts or circumstances of the case). Since then, the process of death qualification has been the subject of extensive legal commentary and social science research, as well as the focus ...

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