Medication state at the time of the offense: medication noncompliance and criminal responsibility

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University of Alabama Libraries

Ethical and due process concerns arise when insanity standards lack a nuanced picture of how society views mental illness and its effects on the volitional nature of a defendant's actions. This project examined whether mock jurors consider meta-responsibility (MR) of mentally ill defendants, how they think about MR in relation to criminal responsibility, and if various degrees of MR differentially influence defendant responsibility and guilt. The MR benchmark manipulation was medication compliance (or noncompliance; MNC) for a NGRI defendant at three levels: medication compliant (MC/control), purposive MNC, and inadvertent MNC. The type of MNC was manipulated by establishing the defendant's insight into his illness as either High or Low. A second variable - the extent to which a forensic mental health expert explains issues relevant to the defendant's MR (i.e., MNC and insight into one's mental illness) - was also manipulated. Using a between-subjects jury deliberation paradigm and a mixed quantitative-qualitative methodology, results did not yield the hypothesized interactions between a NGRI defendant's MNC, insight, and testimony elaboration on MR and verdict. Results suggest that as ecological validity of the study parameters increased, effects found in prior research with more experimental control were unsupported. Findings were consistent with research suggesting jurors are unlikely to recognize the complexity of the relationship between a defendant's MNC and volitional, informed decision-making; thus, readily attributing MR to NGRI defendants at the cost of overlooking individual differences in case facts related to some of the key determinants of their verdicts such as MNC and insight into one's illness. Implications for future research, NGRI proceedings, and forensic mental health expert testimony are discussed.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Psychology, Law, Social psychology