Expert testimony and substance-themed mitigation in capital case sentencing

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dc.contributor Brodsky, Stanley L.
dc.contributor Baldwin, J. Norman
dc.contributor Dautovich, Natalie D.
dc.contributor Hart, William P.
dc.contributor Salekin, Randall T.
dc.contributor.advisor Brodsky, Stanley L.
dc.contributor.author Boyle, Jessica Ann
dc.date.accessioned 2017-03-01T17:44:54Z
dc.date.available 2017-03-01T17:44:54Z
dc.date.issued 2016
dc.identifier.other u0015_0000001_0002355
dc.identifier.other Boyle_alatus_0004D_12765
dc.identifier.uri https://ir.ua.edu/handle/123456789/2678
dc.description Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
dc.description.abstract The present study explored how jurors utilize biopsychosocial variables during the sentencing phase of a capital trial.  According to literature, certain mitigating factors, like substance abuse, cause a "backfire effect."  This means that contrary to the defense's intentions, jurors considered the information more aggravating than mitigating.  Previous studies of biopsychosocial mitigation have neglected the impact of expert testimony on juror decision-making.  Ideally, an expert imparts knowledge so jurors are more informed in their sentencing choice.  However, such testimony may exacerbate the “backfire effect” by underscoring unfavorable qualities of the defendant. Hypotheses anticipated participants (mock jurors) exposed to expert testimony regarding a defendant’s substance abuse would be more likely to choose the death penalty. Further, it was anticipated this effect would be greater for mock jurors displaying problematic drinking patterns. Results revealed a significant main effect of expert testimony such that mock jurors exposed to testimony were significantly less likely to choose the death penalty, regardless of whether the defendant abused substances. Upon further investigation, the significant effect of expert testimony only held true for college student participants. These results highlight the importance of a two-step process of data analysis in juror decision-making studies using college student samples. Specifically, significant effects should be confirmed within a more venire-representative sample before drawing conclusions. Uncovered data also shed more light on the influence of expert testimony during capital cases, as well as the juror characteristics associated with different sentencing decisions for a defendant displaying mental health problems. In addition, data suggested substance-themed mitigation is not necessarily deleterious for the defense. Effective expert testimony may provide a buffer against the backfire effect, especially for jurors with higher levels of achieved education.
dc.format.extent 155 p.
dc.format.medium electronic
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language English
dc.language.iso en_US
dc.publisher University of Alabama Libraries
dc.relation.ispartof The University of Alabama Electronic Theses and Dissertations
dc.relation.ispartof The University of Alabama Libraries Digital Collections
dc.relation.hasversion born digital
dc.rights All rights reserved by the author unless otherwise indicated.
dc.subject.other Psychology
dc.title Expert testimony and substance-themed mitigation in capital case sentencing
dc.type thesis
dc.type text
etdms.degree.department University of Alabama. Dept. of Psychology
etdms.degree.discipline Psychology
etdms.degree.grantor The University of Alabama
etdms.degree.level doctoral
etdms.degree.name Ph.D.


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