Death Qualification as Systematic Exclusion of Jurors With Certain Religious and Other Characteristics


  • Alicia Summers,

    Corresponding author
    1. National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
      Reno, NV
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    • The present research was supported by the National Science Foundation Award #0351811, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the American Psychology–Law Society, and the University of Nebraska Law–Psychology Program. This research was presented at the March 2008 conference of the American Psychology–Law Society, Jacksonville, FL. The authors are grateful for the research assistance of Nick Fanning and Beth Herschlag and for helpful comments from Brian Bornstein, Rich Wiener, Bob Schopp, Dick Dienstbier, and several anonymous reviewers.

  • R. David Hayward,

    1. University of Nevada, Reno
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  • Monica K. Miller

    1. University of Nevada, Reno
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Alicia Summers, Permanency Planning for Children Department, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 50 W. Liberty St, Suite 300, Reno, NV 89501. E-mail:


The death-qualification process has been criticized because it tends to eliminate certain groups of individuals at a higher rate than others. This study examined whether the process systematically excludes jurors based on religious characteristics, justice philosophy, cognitive processing, and demographics. Results indicated that death qualification can be predicted by religious affiliation, devotionalism, fundamentalism, and Biblical interpretism; but not evangelism. Death qualification is predicted by the belief that murderers deserved to die, but not by beliefs that criminals deserve mercy, forgiveness, or payback. Cognitive processing had no impact on death qualification. Finally, gender and race predicted death qualification, while age and prior jury duty did not. These results are discussed in terms of implications for perceived legitimacy of the system.