Sentencing Instructions On The Penalty Essay

1067 Words Nov 26th, 2014 5 Pages
Sentencing Instructions

At the conclusion of the penalty phase, jurors are instructed by the judge on how to determine the existence of aggravating and/or mitigating factors, as well Sources of Bias and Arbitrariness 117 learned from the judge’s instructions)? Jurors do rather well in understanding the criteria of proof for aggravating factors, as the criteria of proof fit with their expectations (Luginbuhl, 1992) Luginbuhl said revised instructions should put the life-or-death decision in context for jurors by explaining, for example, crucial differences between mitigating and aggravating factors. Jurors do much more poorly in their comprehension of the requirement of proof for mitigating circumstances. Significant minorities (and sometimes majorities) of jurors in various surveys or simulations believe mitigating factors must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and/or that the jurors must unanimously agree on the existence of any specific mitigating factor, both of which are contrary to law. Such misunderstanding with regard to mitigation seems likely to reduce the probability that jurors would find mitigation, which in turn would increase the likelihood of their voting for death. Additionally, jurors have difficulty in understanding how to “weigh” the importance of aggravating and mitigating factors and what the consequences of this weighing should be. At the conclusion of the penalty phase of a capital trial, the judge thus would read the pattern instructions…

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