The Effects of Bifurcation and Death Qualification on Assignment of Penalty in Capital Crimes1


  • 1

    The research was funded by grants given by the University of Toledo Graduate School and Office of Arts & Sciences, and by Jamestown Community College.

2 Requests for reprints should be sent to Irwin A. Horowitz, Department of Psychology, The University of Toledo, 2801 W. Bancroft Street, Toledo, OH 43606.


An experiment was conducted to test the effects of the bifurcated trial procedure and the death qualification process on sentencing and verdicts in death penalty cases. Forty-four 12-person juries, assigned to one of five trial conditions, returned verdicts indicating that death qualified, bifurcated juries gave the most severe verdicts and the highest proportion of guilty verdicts, while non-death qualified, trial only, juries returned the least severe verdicts and the highest proportion of not guilty or hung outcomes. Thirty-seven penalty phase juries, of which 20 had previously assigned guilt, were distributed among five penalty conditions. The sentencing data revealed that the most severe sentences were given by the death qualified, bifurcated juries. The least severe sentences were returned by the non-death qualified, bifurcated juries. Juries impaneled for the penalty phase only and death qualified meted out moderate sentences.