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29 Behav. Sci. & L. 1 (2011)

handle is hein.journals/bsclw29 and id is 1 raw text is: 




Behavioral Sciences and the Law
Behav. Sci. Law 29: 1 22 (2011)
Published online 23 November 2010 in Wiley Online Library
(wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/bsl.963



Life and Death in the Lone Star State:

Three Decades of Violence Predictions

by Capital Juriest

Mark D. Cunningham*, Jon R. Sorensent, Mark P. Vigen  and
S.O. Woods


The accuracy of three decades of Texas jury predictions of future violence by capital
defendants was tested through retrospective review of the disciplinary records of former
death row (FDR) inmates in Texas (N = 111) who had been sentenced to death under this
special issue and subsequently obtained relief from their death sentences between
1989 and 2008. FDR inmates typically had extended tenures on death row (M = 9.9 years)
and post-relief in the general prison population (M = 8.4 years). FDR prevalence of
serious assault was low, both on death row (3.6%) and upon entering the prison
population (4.5%). None of the assaults resulted in life-threatening injuries to the
victims. Violence among the FDR inmates was not disproportionate compared with
life-sentenced capital offenders. Consistent with other research, juror expectations of
serious prison violence by these offenders had high error (i.e., false positive) rates. The
confidence of legislators and courts in the violence prediction capabilities of capital
jurors is misplaced. Copyright 0 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.



In 1973, the Texas Legislature was engaged in drafting a new death penalty statute that
would meet a constitutional minimum in the aftermath of Furman v. Georgia (1972),
the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that had declared the extant death penalty of
that era unconstitutional (Cunningham, 2006). The Texas capital statute that emerged
from conference committee created a special issue that a jury must unanimously find
beyond a reasonable doubt in order to sentence an offender to death: whether there is a
probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would
constitute a continuing threat to society (see Texas Code of Criminal Procedure,
Article 37.071 §2(b) 1). The Texas capital sentencing scheme and this special issue were
affirmed as constitutionally acceptable in Jurek v. Texas (1976).




*Correspondence to: Mark D. Cunningham, 6860 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200, Piano, Texas,
75024, U.S.A. E-mail: mdcTmarkdcunningham.com
tThe authors derive income from evaluations and testimony at capital sentencing specifying varying levels of
improbability of future prison violence and/or describing prison classification and security. The withdrawal of
future violence as a capital sentencing consideration would have adverse economic impact on them. Partial
funding for data collection and analysis was provided by a Texas district court at the request of defense
counsel.
'Prairie View A&M University, TX, U.S.A.
Shreveport, LA, U.S.A.
Huntsville, TX, U.S.A.


Copyright 0 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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