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University of Michigan Law School

Racial discrimination

Criminal Procedure

1988

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Unpleasant Facts: The Supreme Court's Response To Empirical Research On Capital Punishment, Phoebe C. Ellsworth Jan 1988

Unpleasant Facts: The Supreme Court's Response To Empirical Research On Capital Punishment, Phoebe C. Ellsworth

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Slowly at first, and then with accelerating frequency, the courts have begun to examine, consider, and sometimes even require empirical data. From 1960 to 1981, for example, use of the terms "statistics" and "statistical" in Federal District and Circuit Court opinions increased by almost 15 times.1 Of course, citation rates indicate only that a topic is considered worthy of mention, not that it is taken seriously, or even understood. Nonetheless, in a number of areas, such as jury composition and employment discrimination, the courts have come to rely on empirical data as a matter of course.

In the last 25 …