Jury-Eligible Public Attitudes Toward Biological Risk Factors for the Development of Criminal Behavior and Implications for Capital Sentencing

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Abstract

This experiment, utilizing a sample of death-qualified jury-eligible public, examines if and how evidence on biological risk factors for criminality might affect views on the death penalty in four contexts: death penalty support, mitigation, future dangerousness, and cruel and unusual punishment. Results suggest that the presentation of evidence on biological risk factors generally, regardless of the specific risk factor, may not affect views on whether or not the use of the death penalty is appropriate. The presentation of biological risk factor evidence does not appear to be viewed by as strongly mitigating, but biological risk factors generally do have a small, yet statistically significant, impact on perceptions of moral responsibility. The presentation of evidence on certain biological risk factors also may aggravate views of future dangerousness, which could potentially increase the likelihood that the death penalty is supported. Implications of these attitudes for the criminal justice system are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1100
Number of pages28
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Volume44
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law

Keywords

  • biological
  • biosocial
  • capital sentencing
  • criminology
  • death penalty
  • risk factor

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