Jurors’ Use of Non-statutory Aggravating and Mitigating Evidence in the Context of Improper Prosecutor Argument

with Alicia Serpa


In a 2 x 3 x 2 between-subjects experiment, 133 participants were exposed to improper prosecutor argument as well as non-statutory aggravating and mitigating evidence. Non-statutory aggravating evidence was presented as victim impact testimony. Dependent measures included sentence recommendation, consideration of both prosecutor argument and non-statutory mitigating and aggravating evidence. Findings suggest jurors may misuse mitigation when presented with victim impact evidence and improper prosecutor argument. In addition, results indicate affective processes influence perceptions of testimony. Negative mood was associated with perceptions of the defendant as socially valuable compared to evidence that depicted the defendant as experiencing a troubled life.

Alicia presented the results of her thesis as a paper presentation at the 4th International Congress of Psychology and Law, Miami, FL in March 2011.