Monday, December 14, 2009

Research briefs 12-14-09: Effect of race on capital jury deliberation

Lynch, M., & Haney, C. (2009). Capital Jury Deliberation: Effects on Death Sentencing, Comprehension, and Discrimination. Law and Human Behavior, 33(6), 481-496.

This study focused on whether and how deliberations affected the comprehension of capital penalty phase jury instructions and patterns of racially discriminatory death sentencing. Jury-eligible subjects were randomly assigned to view one of four versions of a simulated capital penalty trial in which the race of defendant (Black or White) and the race of victim (Black or White) were varied orthogonally. The participants provided their initial ‘‘straw’’ sentencing verdicts individually and then deliberated in simulated 4–7 person ‘‘juries.’’ Results indicated that deliberation created a punitive rather than lenient shift in the jurors’ death sentencing behavior, failed to improve characteristically poor instructional comprehension, did not reduce the tendency for jurors to misuse penalty phase evidence(especially, mitigation), and exacerbated the tendency among White mock jurors to sentence Black defendants to death more often than White defendants.

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