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dc.contributor.authorBarner, John Robert
dc.description.abstractThe context in which instructions are given to juries, including their clarity and comprehension, the weight given to legal precedent, findings of fact, and explication of aggravating and mitigating circumstances are crucial to determining the real impact of those instructions in the sentencing phase of a capital trial. The purpose of this study is to investigate the content of jury instructions and the impact they have on the process of jury decision-making. This study provides empirical evidence to enable jurisdictions and reviewing courts to better ascertain the comprehensibility of jury instruction content and explore key areas that require consideration with regard to how fluctuations and/or arbitrariness in clarity and comprehensibility alter the final verdict in a capital trial. This study investigates the possible reciprocal relationship between differing conceptions of justice inherent in jury instruction content and predispositions toward imposition of the death penalty. Concerns are derived from the dissenting opinions found in Gregg v. Georgia (1976) as to whether increased attention to a strict “rule of law” in jury instructions fosters increased jury imposition of the death penalty. Empirical information is gathered from jurors as to whether procedural efforts to avoid arbitrariness in jury instruction may potentially bias juries away from consideration of aggravating or mitigating circumstances in capital trials and obscure key decision-influencing variables. The relationship between capital jury instructions and imposition of the death penalty is analyzed through a mixed methodology utilizing data collected as part of the archives of the national Capital Jury Project (CJP) at the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany (N=1198) and survey research conducted in Georgia to identify instructional factors that are consistent with imposition of the death penalty or lesser sentence recommendations. Results contributed to the development and validation of an empirical instrument, the Brief Jury Instruction Comprehensibility Questionnaire (BJICQ) measuring the content in the jury instructions.
dc.subjectLaw, Jury instructions, Death penalty, Capital punishment, Arbitrariness, Theories of justice, Decision-making
dc.titleLife or death decisions
dc.title.alternativemeasuring jury instruction impact on imposition of the death penalty
dc.description.departmentSchool of Social Work
dc.description.majorSocial Work
dc.description.advisorLarry Nackerud
dc.description.committeeLarry Nackerud
dc.description.committeeEdwin Risler
dc.description.committeeMichelle Carney
dc.description.committeeElizabeth Beck

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