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The Effects of Variations in Voir Dire Procedures in Capital Murder Trials

Michael T. Nietzel and Ronald C. Dillehay
Law and Human Behavior
Vol. 6, No. 1 (1982), pp. 1-13
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1393702
Page Count: 13
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The Effects of Variations in Voir Dire Procedures in Capital Murder Trials
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Abstract

Psychologists and social scientists must begin to evaluate the effects of the jury selection methods they employ. These methods include a preference for attorney questioning of individual, sequestered venirepersons. This study examines the effects of four types of voir dire on sustained challenges for cause by defense and prosecution attorneys. Using transcripts and our own notes we classified thirteen capital cases, comprising approximately one-third of similar trials in Kentucky for the period 1975-1980, according to whether venirepersons were questioned individually or en masse, and whether sequestration was used for voir dire. Results show significantly more sustained defense challenges for cause under conditions of individual sequestration of venirepersons during voir dire than when voir dire is conducted en masse in open court. Other effects are examined, and generalization of the results is discussed. We interpret the outcomes to show that bias in potential jurors is best revealed when venirepersons are examined while individually sequestered.

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