What is the Capital Jury Project?

This website describes the Capital Jury Project (CJP) and provides a listing of CJP-based publications with access to some of them as they appear in print, including statistical tabulations not available in common on-line sources.

The Capital Jury Project (CJP) is a program of research on how persons who serve as jurors on capital cases make the life or death sentencing decision. It has sought to determine whether jurors' exercise of capital sentencing discretion under modern capital statutes conforms to constitutional standards, whether these statutes have remedied the arbitrariness ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia (1972). Initiated in 1991 by a consortium of university-based researchers with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the CJP was designed to: (1) systematically describe jurors' exercise of capital sentencing discretion; (2) assess the extent of arbitrariness in jurors' exercise of such discretion; and (3) evaluate the efficacy of capital statutes in controlling such arbitrariness.

In-depth personal interviews have been conducted with 1198 jurors from 353 capital trials in 14 states. These 3-4 hour interviews chronicle the jurors' experiences and decision-making over the course of the trial, identify points at which various influences come into play, and reveal the ways in which jurors reach their final sentencing decisions. The participating states were selected to represent the various forms capital statutes have taken since 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared all earlier capital statues unconstitutional. Samples of 20-30 capital trials were selected in each state and a sample of four jurors was drawn randomly for interviews in each case. The juror interviews obtained data through both structured questions with predetermined response options and open-ended questions that call for detailed narrative accounts of respondents' experiences as capital jurors. The findings of CJP researchers have drawn upon both the statistical data and the accounts of the jurors in their own words.

Some 50 articles based on the CJP data have been published. This website provides a listing of these CJP based articles and doctoral dissertations published or presently in progress with source references and links to electronic data archives. It contains the full text of major CJP publications as they appear in print, including statistical tabulations not usually present in on-line sources such as LexisNexis or Westlaw.

The work of the CJP has twice been extended with NSF support: first, to examine further the role played by jurors' race in making the life or death sentencing decision, and second, to assess the extent of jurors constitutionally mandated receptivity to evidence and arguments of mitigation. This second extension of the research to examine jurors' receptivity to mitigation is housed at the Hindelang Research Center of the University at Albany (SUNY) and is presently underway in ten states.

William J. Bowers (Ph.D., Columbia University, 1966) is Principal Investigator for the CJP. He is Principal Research Scientist in the School of Criminal Justice , University at Albany , formerly at Northeastern University . For his research on capital punishment, in 2000 Dr. Bowers received the American Society of Criminology's August Vollmer Award for outstanding contributions in applied criminology. Michael E. Antonio (Ph.D., Northeastern University , 2003) coordinated data collection and management for the second phase of the CJP on the role race plays in capital sentencing. Susan Ehrhard and Christopher E. Kelly (doctoral candidates at the University at Albany and Temple University , respectively) have assisted with the coordination and data management on the third phase of the CJP concerned with jurors' receptivity to mitigation in capital sentencing.