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6 Law & Hum. Behav. 1 (1982)

handle is hein.journals/lwhmbv6 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1982

The Effects of Variations in Voir Dire Procedures
in Capital Murder Trials*
Michael T. Nietzelt and Ronald C. Dillehayt
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.
Psychologists' participation in the courtroom is burgeoning. Certainly the most visible
and controversial function of juristic psychologists is their participation in scientific
jury selection, an activity first encountered in the late 1960s. Although originally
confined to the showcase trials of political activists and notorious defendants, scientif-
ic jury selection has now trickled down to defendants involved in less celebrated cases
or what one practitioner has termed the typical criminal case (Bennett, 1977). A
growing literature describing psychological approaches to jury selection is now avail-
able (Bennett, 1977; Ginger, 1977; National Jury Project, 1979; Nietzel & Dillehay,
*This research was conducted during a sabbatical leave by the first author from the University of Kentucky to the
Kentucky Office of Public Advocacy, whose assistance in support of this investigation is gratefully acknowl-
edged. We would like to express special appreciation to the staff attorneys of the Kentucky Office of Public
Advocacy, who provided valuable help and guidance at several stages of this research. This research was also
supported by a James McKeen Cattell Foundation Sabbatical Award to the second author.
tDepartment of Psychology, University of Kentucky.
0147-7307/82/0300-001$03.00/0 © 1982 Plenum Publishing Corporation

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