Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 5 Issue 4 (Autumn (Fall) 1987), Pages fmi-fmi, 381-494

Death qualification and conviction proneness: witt and witherspoon compared (pages 479-494)


A survey of registered voters in Fayette County, Kentucky compared the Witt and Witherspoon death qualification standards focusing primarily on the death penalty attitudes and criminal justice system orientations of excludable and death‐qualified potential jurors. As expected, the Witt standard excluded significantly more potential jurors (21.2%) than did the Witherspoon standard (13.6%). The Witherspoon excludable potential jurors were found to be more highly opposed to the death penalty and more due process oriented regarding the criminal justice system than their death‐qualified counterparts. The Witt standard, however, produced more heterogeneous exclusions. In addition, 24.1% of all respondents were found to be automatic death penalty potential jurors (ADPs), that is, potential jurors who stated that they would always vote for the death penalty for convicted capital defendants. Finally, the screening adequacy of the Witt standard for potential jurors who would not follow the law, particularlyfor ADPs, is questioned and discussed.

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