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Jury Instructions: How Timing, Type, and Defendant Race Impact Capital Sentencing Decisions

Description: Much research has investigated improving the effectiveness and fairness of the judicial system. One of the variables that has received attention regarding this is juror comprehension of sentencing instructions. This study utilized a transcript, modified from an actual murder and sexual battery trial transcript, to investigate the effects of timing of the sentencing instructions (before or after penalty phase testimony), simplicity of the instructions (standard or simplified), and race of the defendant (Caucasian or African American) on the overall sentencing outcomes for defendants. Overall, results showed that defendant race was not a significant predictor of the guilt decision for either capital murder or sexual battery. No relationship was found between defendant race and the decision to render a death sentence rather than life in prison without parole (LWOP). When the defendant was presented as Caucasian, the type of instruction (standard or simplified) was unrelated to sentence, but when the defendant was presented as African American the relationship between type of instruction and sentence was marginally significant. Similarities to, and differences from, results of previous research are addressed.

Suggested Citation:
Mannes, S., Foster, E.E., Maier, S.L., (2019). Jury Instructions: How Timing, Type, and Defendant Race Impact Capital Sentencing Decisions [Electronic Version]. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 14(2), 154-170.

Keywords: capital sentencing, jury instructions, defendant race, jury instruction timing

Date: Jan 23, 2019 | File Size: 499.31 Kb | Downloads: 159

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