Dr. Marla Sandys, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Indiana University, recently completed, “Misunderstanding of Capital Instructions: Clarification is Possible,” an analysis of jurors’ understanding of the often-complicated and confusing jury instructions that are provided to them as they deliberate on the appropriate sentence in death penalty cases.
summarizes the major national research on juror understanding of death
penalty sentencing instructions, as well as details the
Kentucky-specific findings of the Capital Jury Project’s research.
Professor Sandys’ conclusions comport with the seven (7)
recommendations related to jury instructions found in our 2011 Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Report,
including the state-based Assessment Team’s charge that the
Commonwealth of Kentucky “should work with attorneys, judges, linguists,
social scientists, psychologists and jurors to evaluate the extent to
which jurors understand instructions, revise the instructions as
necessary to ensure that jurors understand applicable law, and monitor
the extent to which jurors understand revised instructions to permit
further revision as necessary.” Her article can be found here.