Capital Punishment, the Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake

By Charle S L. Black Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

The Trial and Verdict

IF THE DEFENDANT has been charged with a capital offense, and if no plea-bargain has been arranged, then he goes on trial for his life, usually before a jury. That jury will have at least one, and usually two, things to determine. First, it must determine whether (and of what) the defendant is guilty. Secondly, if it finds the defendant guilty of a crime which may be punishable by death, it must, under many of the new death-penalty statutes now being enacted in the states, determine whether the penalty is to be death or life imprisonment. This chapter will deal with the first of these functions—the "guilty or not-guilty" function. The next chapter will take up the sentence-choice function.

The "guilty or not-guilty" function of the jury has two aspects, though they are in practice inseparable. In a capital case, the jury must determine whether the defendant is guilty of the capital offense—punishable by

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