Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Ángel Saavedra Cisneros


This dissertation examines the existence of racial bias within capital punishment. Since colonial times discriminatory death sentencing has impacted racial minorities, and despite living in a post-colonial epoch, the United States Justice system continues to produce alarming racial disparities. Consequently, both law reviews and social science journals indicate that race remains a significant factor in criminal trials. So, to what extent does racial bias influence capital punishment trials? Given that it does exist, how can it be alleviated? Through a statistical/qualitative analysis of psychological studies, Supreme Court cases, and jury instructions, this dissertation suggests that implicit cognitive bias continues to produce daunting realities in contemporary criminal punishment processes. Notably among juries, traditional judicial procedures have ostensibly triggered implicit bias and psychological intimidation, i.e. jury instructions. Moreover, do long and complicated jury instructions heighten instances of partial judgment? In Racial Bias within Capital Punishment: Instructional Comprehension, I argue that inaccessible jury instructions provide a space where jurors adhere to subtle racial preferences. Consequently, the swaying capacity of juries in capital punishment trials proceeds to arbitrarily produce discrepancies in sentencing rates.