- When jurors are unable to agree on a verdict and no further progress can be made toward consensus, they are said to be deadlocked. A deadlocked jury is also known as hung jury.
- The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a practice in which a person is killed by the government as punishment for certain crimes.
It is the most serious punishment that can be imposed. Consequently, jury practices with respect to the death penalty are somewhat unique.
First, selection of jurors in death penalty cases involves a process known as death qualification.
In all capital cases, jurors must agree unanimously to deliver a verdict of not guilty or guilty. (While unanimity is typically a requirement for verdicts, there are two states that do not require it in some non-capital, criminal cases.)
If jurors deliver a not guilty verdict, their service is complete. Jurors continue their service after delivering a guilty verdict, however. In cases of conviction, they have the further responsibility of either sentencing the convicted individual to life without parole or sentencing them to death.
Death Qualification, Death-Qualified
- In addition to the usual jury selection procedures in criminal trials, capital cases involve an additional process of questioning prospective jurors about their thoughts on the death penalty.
These questions are used to identify and eliminate from the jury any prospective juror who is unwilling to consider both sentences of death or life without parole. A jury composed of jurors who successfully pass this screen, and those jurors themselves who pass it, are said to be death-qualified.
Because comparatively more people are unwilling to even consider imposing a death sentence than to consider imposing life without parole, this practice has a side effect of skewing the composition of the resulting juries and even their verdicts.
- After closing arguments by both sides and receiving their instructions from a judge, jurors gather together in the privacy of a room set aside specifically for them to consider and discuss the evidence, testimony, and arguments they have heard and decide on a verdict if they are able to do so. This process is known as deliberation.
- See Allen charge.