Assessment of Evidence of Physical Abuse as a Non-Statutory Mitigating Circumstance

with Fotine Konstantopoulou

Abstract

This study will examine the role of a specific instruction designed to guide jurors on non-statutory mitigating circumstances in determining sentence preference. To date, there is no research examining whether specific instructions provide more guidance compared to general instructions. We expect specific mitigation instructions will minimize death penalty verdicts compared to generic instructions and revised instructions. We also expect that the instruction effect will be moderated through expert testimony of the effects of the defendant suffering physically abuse throughout childhood vs. no evidence of physical abuse. Both the cognitive and affective processes of participant-jurors will mediate our manipulated trial factors.