Tsarnaev Jurors Were Pro-Death Penalty
The gang at The Week are surprised that “Only jurors who were open to the death penalty were chosen for the Tsarnaev trial.”
The New York Times turned up an interesting detail: Only jurors who were “death qualified” — that is, open to the death penalty — were considered for the Tsarnaev trial. Anyone who expressed opposition to the death penalty was disqualified.
This is not in the least surprising. Most if not all jurisdictions that have capital punishment require jurors in death penalty cases to be open to that sentence on the not unreasonable theory that they’ll refuse to vote “guilty” because of their moral objections or simple squeamishness about the punishment.
While the rationale is obvious and unassailable, it’s also problematic. We’ve known at least going back to my high school debating days—over 30 years ago now!—that jurors who are pro-death penalty are more likely to convict than those who aren’t. So, a “death qualified” jury means that the defendant has a more difficult time getting a fair trial.