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Perceptions of Criminal Responsibility Through the Lens of Race

Description: Historically, Black defendants have faced more severe sentences compared to White defendants. Research investigating this phenomenon in the paradigm of the insanity defense, found that Black defendants were acquitted as “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) significantly more often than White defendants (Poulson, 1990). In the current study, we investigate the influence of race of defendant and race of victim on judgments of NGRI in a 3 (race of victim: Black v. White v. Hispanic) x 3 (race of defendant: Black v. White v. Hispanic) between-subjects design. Our results indicated that a Hispanic defendant was acquitted NGRI more frequently and perceived as least dangerous compared to Black and White defendants. Assessments of future dangerousness were greatest when the defendant was Black and the victim was White. This finding provides supporting evidence of a crossrace effect within the context of criminal responsibility (Baldus et al., 1998). In addition, our findings offer an alternative to Poulson (1990), expanding this research to include Hispanic minorities as essential in this paradigm, and contribute to the research on the cross-race victim effect with juror decision making.

Suggested Citation:
Gamache, K., Platania, J., Zaitchik, M. (2021). Perceptions of Criminal Responsibility Through the Lens of Race [Electronic Version]. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 16(1), 52-64.

Keywords: insanity defense, race, criminal responsibility, juror perceptions

Date: Mar 11, 2021 | File Size: 534.19 Kb | Downloads: 337

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