The capital jury project: Rationale, design, and preview of early findings.

Bowers, W. J. (1995). The capital jury project: Rationale, design, and preview of early findings. Indiana Law Journal, 70, 1043-1102.

Drawing upon rather lengthy interviews with 80 to 120 capital jurors in each participating State, the CJP is examining the extent to which juror exercise of capital sentencing discretion is still infected with or now cured of arbitrariness which the U.S. Supreme Court condemned in Furman v. Georgia. The research is being conducted by a consortium of university-based investigators, chiefly criminologists, social psychologists, and law faculty members, using common data collection instruments and procedures. In addition where available, trial transcripts are being used in the analysis. Interviews with judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys are also being conducted in some cases. The discussion of the CJP focuses on arbitrariness versus guided discretion, legal criticism of and empirical challenges to capital sentencing reform, and tensions between legal assumptions about how jurors exercise sentencing discretion and empirical evidence on how jurors actually make their decisions. Early CJP findings are presented from States where data collection has been completed. Preliminary data indicate, for example, that many jurors make their punishment decisions prematurely, well before the sentencing phase of a trial; that many jurors misunderstand the judge’s sentencing instructions in ways that favor imposition of the death penalty; and that many jurors are unwilling to accept primary responsibility for their punishment decisions. Considerable number of jurors felt death sentence obligated if certain aggravating factors present.