The issues of life and death have remained one of the most controversial in society and various sciences, including psychology. This topic has been especially actively discussed recently with the submission of an act on abolishing the death penalty in the United States in early 2021. However, the question of those who impose this punishment is no less important than its application. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the term “death-qualified jury” and analyze its meaning.
The definition of this term and the person’s position associated with it are contained in the name itself. A judge who has the ability to hear cases, the punishment for which may be capital punishment, must be recognized as suitable for them (Death-Qualified Jury). They are qualified to pass the death penalty if the circumstances of the case require it. Such a person, according to the law, can only be selected by meeting specific parameters. However, the question of these parameters is highly controversial and is often discussed. The most common criterion is the absence of a strictly oppositional view of the death penalty (Death-Qualified Jury). Such a requirement is logical since, otherwise, the judge will not be able to pass the sentence due to the likelihood of personal convictions’ influence.
However, this casts doubt on the impartiality of the jury as a whole. This is why in 1969, a proposal was made to abolish this approach since, in theory, a person could have philosophical views but still abide by the law (Death-Qualified Jury). It was ultimately rejected due to the risk of creating bias. Nevertheless, as practice shows, there is still prejudice in this matter on the part of people who approve of the death penalty. Research has shown that the practice of admitting judges to death sentences leads to biased convictions on juries (Mauro 243). Accordingly, to eliminate possible prejudices, it is necessary to choose people who are neutral about capital punishment.
In this context, the problem lies in the fact that practically all jurors demonstrate and express the consciousness of society. People can even start from unconscious prejudices when passing sentences, believing that they abide by the law. Thus, this qualification is challenging from a psychological and social point of view since the death-qualified jury is under intense internal and external pressure. Without a strict distinction between the factors of the death penalty and life imprisonment, it is impossible to eliminate the bias factor.
“Death-Qualified Jury.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2018. Web.
Mauro, Robert. “Tipping the Scales toward Death: The Biasing Effects of Death Qualification.” Psychology and Social Policy, edited by Peter Suedfeld and Philip Tetlock, Taylor & Francis, 2019, pp. 243-254.