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 them as they appear in print, including statistical tabulations not available in common on-line sources.

The CJP is a program of research on how persons who serve as jurors on capital cases make the life or death sentencing decision. It seeks 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 from 14 states 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 were conducted with 1198 jurors from 353 capital trials in these 14 states. The participating states were selected to represent the various forms capital statutes have taken since 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared all previous capital statues unconstitutional. These states include Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The interviews, typically lasting 3 to 4 hours, 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. Twenty to thirty capital trials were selected in each state and samples of four jurors were drawn randomly for interviews in each capital 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 typically drawn on both the statistical data and the accounts of the jurors in their own words.

Some 78 articles and book chapters based on the CJP data have been published and the CJP has served as the basis for 19 doctoral dissertations and theses. This website provides a listing of these CJP based publications, dissertations, and theses with source references that 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.

Principal Investigator for the CJP is William J. Bowers (Ph.D., Columbia University, 1966). 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 management for the phase of the CJP on the role race plays in capital sentencing. Susan Ehrhard-Dietzel and Christopher E. Kelly (recent doctoral recipients at the University at Albany and Temple University, respectively) have assisted with the coordination and data management on the phase of the CJP concerned with jurors' receptivity to mitigation in capital sentencing.