JURORS' DISCUSSIONS OF A DEFENDANT'S HISTORY OF CHILD ABUSE AND ALCOHOL ABUSE IN CAPITAL SENTENCING DELIBERATIONS

Margaret C. Stevenson*, Bette L. Bottoms, Shari Diamond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

We tested a novel theoretical model explaining the psychological processes underlying jurors' discussions about a defendant's history of child abuse and alcohol abuse in a capital case. We coded the extent to which jurors used child abuse and alcohol abuse as mitigating factors, as aggravating factors, or argued that they should be ignored. Relying on attribution theory, we coded the extent to which jurors rendered controllable or uncontrollable and stable or unstable attributions regarding the defendant's history of child abuse and alcohol abuse. Jurors were more likely to argue that child abuse and alcohol abuse should not be used as mitigators or to even use them against the defendant as aggravators than they were to use them as mitigators. Jurors made more controllable than uncontrollable attributions regarding child abuse and more stable than unstable attributions regarding both child abuse and alcohol abuse. The more jurors supported the death penalty, the more they argued to discount child abuse and alcohol abuse as mitigators or use them as aggravators and the more controllable and stable attributions they made. Political orientation predicted discussions and attributions about alcohol abuse, but not child abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010

Keywords

  • alcohol abuse
  • capital punishment
  • child abuse
  • jury deliberations
  • mitigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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