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Confronting the Death Penalty: How Language Influences Jurors in Capital Cases probes how jurors make the ultimate decision about whether another human being should live or die.
Drawing on ethnographic and qualitative linguistic methods, this book explores the means through which language helps to make death penalty decisions possible - how specific linguistic choices mediate and restrict jurors', attorneys', and judges' actions and experiences while serving and reflecting on capital trials.
The analysis draws on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in diverse counties across Texas, including participant observation in four capital trials and post-verdict interviews with the jurors who decided those cases. Given the impossibility of access to actual capital jury deliberations, this integration of methods aims to provide the clearest possible window into jurors' decision-making.
By focusing on how language can both facilitate and stymie empathic encounters, the book addresses a conflict inherent to death penalty trials: jurors literally face defendants during trial and then must distort, diminish, or negate these face-to-face interactions in order to sentence those same defendants to death.