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NCJ Number: 206085 Find in a Library
Title: Capital Jurors as the Litmus Test of Community Conscience for the Juvenile Death Penalty
Journal: Judicature  Volume:87  Issue:6  Dated:May-June 2004  Pages:274-283
Author(s): Michael E. Antonio; Benjamin D. Fleury-Steiner; Valerie P. Hans; William J. Bowers
Date Published: May 2004
Page Count: 10
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article presents findings from in-depth interviews with capital jurors regarding their use of the death penalty for juvenile and mentally retarded defendants.
Abstract: In the Fall of 2004, the United States Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty. At issue is whether the juvenile death penalty violates the eight amendment regarding the community conscience toward the death penalty for youthful offenders. In 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court banned executions of persons younger than 18 because of 8th and 14th amendment violations. The argument was that there was a National consensus against the use of the death penalty for youthful offenders. In previous cases, the United States Supreme Court has declared capital juries as the most appropriate indicators of the community conscience. This article presents findings from in-depth interviews with 1,198 jurors from 353 capital trials in 14 States; 12 of these cases involved juvenile defendants. Jurors were asked questions regarding their decision making process, especially regarding: (1) where the age line drawn in terms of the imposition of the death penalty, and (2) whether the sentencing behavior of jurors in juvenile cases is similar to the sentencing behavior of jurors in mentally retarded cases. The analysis reveals that jurors were less likely to impose the death penalty to defendants who are under age 18 at the time of the offense (17.4 percent). On the other hand, 59.6 percent of jurors would impose the death penalty on a defendant aged 19 or older. Mentally retarded defendants were also more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants under age 18 (38.2 percent compared to 17.5 percent). The analysis also revealed that jurors think differently about juvenile and adult defendants in terms of family background characteristics and social adjustment, with jurors more willing to make exceptions for juvenile defendants. In juvenile cases, 66.7 percent of jurors expressed “pity or sympathy for the defendant” compared with 51.5 percent of jurors in adult cases. Explanations of why jurors rejected the death penalty in juvenile cases revolve around issues of the defendant’s home environment and young age. Explanations of why jurors imposed the death penalty in juvenile cases revolve around the perception of the defendant as older. Thus, there appears to be a community consensus regarding the unacceptability of the death penalty for youthful defendants.
Main Term(s): Juror post verdict interviews; Juvenile capital punishment
Index Term(s): Offenders with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities; Perception; State supreme courts; US Supreme Court decisions
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