Exploring the Effects of Altitudes Toward the Death Penalty on Capital Sentencing Verdicts

By Kevin O’Neil / Psychology, Public Policy and Law / Marc W. Patry / Steven D. Penrod, on 1 January 2004

Attitudes toward the death penalty are multifaceted and strongly held, but little research outside of the death-qualification literature has focused on the role that such attitudes and beliefs play in jurors’ capital sentencing verdicts. A single item is insufficient to properly measure attitudes toward the death penalty; therefore, a new 15-item, 5-factor scale was constructed and validated. Use of this scale in 11 studies of capital jury decision making found a large effect of general support of the death penalty on sentencing verdicts as well as independent aggravating effects for the belief that the death penalty is a deterrent and the belief that a sentence of life without parole nonetheless allows parole. These effects generally were not completely mediated by, nor did attitudes moderate the effects of, aggravating and mitigating factors.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Networks,