Matching Items (2)
- All Subjects: Capital Punishment
- Creators: Berry, Megan Cheyenne
- Creators: Cavender, Gray
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court found that the death penalty was being applied too arbitrarily in the United States and that this arbitrary application constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment (Furman V. Georgia, 1972). This lead to a moratorium on capital punishment until the case Gregg V. Georgia, which outlined guidelines for the states in applying the death penalty in order to ensure that its application was constitutional (Gregg V. Georgia, 1976). These guidelines included enumerated aggravating factors and a bifurcated capital trial (Gregg V. Georgia, 1976). Despite these findings from the Supreme Court, the application of the death penalty in Arizona has remained problematic. In practice, Arizona has adopted a death penalty statute that appears to conform to the standards set by Furman and Gregg. Arizona state law includes a list of aggravating factors to help guide juries in capital trials and these trials are bifurcated. However, Arizona's aggravating factors are both numerous and inclusive, to the point that it is challenging to commit a first-degree murder in Arizona that does not include an aggravating factor. The statute fails to limit the crimes that qualify for the death penalty so state budgetary concerns become the limiting factor. Arizona's application of the death penalty remains arbitrary, in consistent, and as a result, unconstitutional as defined by the United States Supreme Court.
By providing vignettes with manipulated scientific evidence, this research examined if including more or less scientific detail affected decision-making in regards to the death penalty. Participants were randomly assigned one of the two manipulations (less science and more science) after reading a short scenario introducing the mock capital trial and their role as jury members. Survey respondents were told that a jury had previously found the defendant guilty and they would now deliberate the appropriate punishment. Before being exposed to the manipulation, respondents answered questions pertaining to their prior belief in the death penalty, as well as their level of support of procedural justice and science. These questions provided a baseline to compare to their sentencing decision. Participants were then asked what sentence they would impose \u2014 life in prison or death \u2014 and how the fMRI evidence presented by an expert witness for the defense affected their decision. Both quantitative and qualitative measures were used to identify how the level of scientific detail affected their decision. Our intended predictor variable (level of scientific detail) did not affect juror decision-making. In fact, the qualitative results revealed a variety of interpretations of the scientific evidence used both in favor of death and in favor of life. When looking at what did predict juror decision-making, gender, prior belief in the death penalty, and political ideology all were significant predictors. As in previous literature, the fMRI evidence in our study had mixed results with regards to implementation of the death penalty. This held true in both of our manipulations, showing that despite the level of detail in evidence intended for mitigation, jurors with preconceived notions may still disregard the evidence, and some jurors may even view it is aggravating and thus increase the likelihood of a death sentence for a defendant with such brain abnormalities.