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Attorney-Client Relationship in Capital Cases and Its Impact on Juror Receptivity to Mitigation Evidence

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2005 Pages: 340-363
Thomas W. Brewer
Date Published
September 2005
24 pages
This study examined the relationship between a capital juror’s perception of the attorney-client relationship and how that perception affects their ability or willingness to consider mitigation evidence presented during the penalty phase of a capital trial.
The United States Supreme Court has placed a great deal of trust in the ability and willingness of capital jurors to consider mitigation evidence during sentencing deliberations as a constitutional aspect of capital sentencing. This study tested the proposition that the manner in which the defense attorney and defendant interact in the presence of the jury will have some effect on the decisionmaking process of individual jurors. The assumption is that the more jurors perceive a close and warm relationship between the attorney and client, the more willing and able they will be to consider evidence (mitigating) which tends to make a death sentence seem less appropriate. Data for the study were compiled by the Capital Jury Project (CJP). The complete CJP dataset contains information on 1,198 jurors. For this study, the sample consisted of 725 which included only those respondents who were asked survey items used in the construction of this model. The respondent’s perception of the defendant as having human characteristics was shown to have a significant relationship to receptivity. The more human qualities the defendant appears to possess in the eyes of the juror, the more receptive that juror is to mitigation. The results support the conclusion that a juror’s perception of the attorney-client relationship is related to their receptivity to mitigating factors. These findings represent an important advance in the understanding of how jurors view the interaction between defense attorneys and capital defendants, and how this view influences the decisionmaking process. References