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What effect does defendant excuse type and defendant age have on mock jurors’ decision-making?

Heaven, Lauren (2010) What effect does defendant excuse type and defendant age have on mock jurors’ decision-making? University of Glamorgan.

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Abstract

This study, inspired by Higgins, Heath and Grannemann (2007), uses quantitative and qualitative components to investigate what effect does defendant excuse type (highly self-inflicted vs. less self-inflicted) and defendant age (older vs. younger) have on mock jurors’ decision-making. There were four conditions; these were, a defendant age 65 with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a defendant age 22 with PTSD, a 65-year-old defendant with a Cocaine Dependency Disorder (CDD), and a 22-year-old defendant with a CDD. One-hundred-and-twenty participants read a hypothetical scenario involving the attack of a man and then answered ten questions as a mock juror. Defendant age did not have an effect on mock jurors’ decision-making; however, defendant excuse type significantly affected mock jurors’ decision-making. Themes, which emerged amongst participants’ qualitative answers, are depicted. Superordinate themes comprise of sympathy for victim versus sympathy for defendant, controllability of condition versus responsibility of situation, help in the past versus help in the future. The study concludes that participants attributed more blame to the defendant with the highly self-inflicted excuse; and the defendant using the less self-inflicted excuse was treated more sympathetically. The theoretical implications of the study are discussed with reference to attribution theory and emotion.

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