Every day, in courthouses around the country, tens of thousands of Americans are called for jury duty. It's generally not something most Americans look forward to. It's an inconvenience. It means interrupting our normal routines, missing work, and getting paid next to nothing to sit around a courthouse, hoping you won't be seated on some trial that will last for the next month and a half.
Surprisingly, most Americans who serve as jurors find it a positive experience by the time it's over. But jury service can also be extremely stressful, even traumatic. This is especially true in violent criminal cases, and above all, in death penalty cases. In the 38 states that have the death penalty, jurors who reach a guilty verdict must also decide if the defendant will live or die.
For this American RadioWorks special report, correspondent Alan Berlow examines cases in which death penalty jurors misunderstood, even disobeyed the laws designed to guide their decisions over life and death. And he found that jurors may be influenced by their own fears and prejudices when they sentence people to death.
Next: Jurors' Trauma