Exposure to capital voir dire may not increase convictions despite increasing pretrial presumption of guilt.

During capital voir dire, prospective jurors are questioned about their views on capital punishment to determine their ability and willingness to impose the penalty as required by law. Two experiments replicated and extended Haney’s (1984a) research on the effects of exposure to capital voir dire, which has been cited to support the proposition that jurors who are exposed to a capital voir dire are more prone to convict. In the first study, watching a capital voir dire increased participants’ pretrial estimates of the likelihood of the defendant’s guilt and conviction, replicating earlier findings. However, these pretrial effects did not survive the presentation of trial evidence, which had not been tested previously. Participants exposed to death qualification during capital voir dire were significantly less likely to convict than were those who were not exposed to death qualification. In a second study, exposure to capital voir dire influenced the type and amount of evidence that jurors reported that they would require for conviction, such that exposure to death qualification created an expectation for greater evidence of guilt than did exposure to a standard voir dire. To the extent that exposure to capital voir dire increases jurors’ expectations for evidence of guilt, death qualified jurors may be more likely to acquit if their expectations are not met, despite increased pretrial bias against the defendant. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)