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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 157885 Find in a Library
Title: Instructing on Death: Psychologists, Juries, and Judges
Journal: American Psychologist  Volume:48  Issue:4  Dated:(April 1993)  Pages:423- 434
Author(s): S S Diamond
Date Published: 1993
Page Count: 12
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This analysis of jury instructions in cases involving capital punishment concludes that some States provide seriously inadequate guidance, that jury instructions sometimes contribute to confusion, and that psychological research can have an important role in reducing or eliminating the arbitrariness that permeates decisionmaking in capital cases.
Abstract: The legal system of the United States depends on judicial instructions to structure jury death penalty decisions and thus avoid unconstitutional arbitrariness. However, some death penalty instructions are inadequate and ignore aspects that lead jurors to misconstrue instructions. Empirical research has begun to document sources of misunderstanding and ways to improve communication. Psychological research can assist in reducing arbitrariness in death penalty decisions, but even optimal instructions may not produce constitutionally sufficient consistency. To be constitutional, capital punishment must be imposed according to a consistent set of standards. Simultaneously, juries must be free to consider in mitigation any relevant case of offender characteristics. However, it is not clear that this constitutional conflict between standards and discretion can be resolved. Footnotes and 62 references
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Criminology; Jury decisionmaking; Jury instructions
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