Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.568085
Title: Fatal distraction : does the Texas capital sentencing statute discourage the consideration of mitigating evidence?
Author: Vartkessian, Elizabeth S.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Abstract:
Whether the capital sentencing statute in Texas provides a vehicle for jurors to give effect to mitigation evidence has been a critical factor when the United States Supreme Court has sought to determine its constitutionality. Unlike the majority of other American jurisdictions which maintain capital punishment as a penalty, Texas utilizes a particularly unique scheme which places an assessment of the defendant’s dangerousness at the center of the sentencing decision. Using data gathered from personally conducted interviews with forty-six former capital jurors and trial transcripts from each trial in which they served, this thesis demonstrates how the current sentencing scheme in Texas fails to provide jurors with an adequate vehicle for considering mitigation evidence. Beginning with an analysis of the process of jury selection this study examines the various ways in which the sentencing scheme is explained to potential jurors by the judge, prosecution, and defense attorneys. Of crucial importance is how the mitigation instruction is reconstituted by trial judges and prosecutors into an extension of the defendant’s potential future dangerousness. Emerging from this analysis is the central role that the interpretation of the sentencing statute by legal actors play in determining how jurors view the evidence presented throughout the trial, as well as what factors they believe they are legally permitted to consider in sentencing. The findings of this study strongly suggest that the focus of the sentencing scheme on the defendant’s dangerousness inhibits jurors’ ability to view mitigation evidence unrelated to the crime as mitigating. Thus, the Texas capital sentencing statute in its application appears to prevent jurors from giving effect to personal mitigation, an essential element of a constitutionally satisfactory death penalty statute.
Supervisor: Hoyle, Carolyn Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.568085  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social Sciences ; Law ; Criminal Law ; Criminology ; Criminology ? Sentencing and Punishment ; capital punishment ; juror decision-making ; aggravating factors ; mitigating factors ; sentencing
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