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Behav Sci Law. 2007;25(1):57-68.

The impact of death qualification, belief in a just world, legal authoritarianism, and locus of control on venirepersons' evaluations of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in capital trials.

Author information

1
University of South Florida, Sarasota Department of Psychology, 8350 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, FL 34243, USA. bbutler@banshee.sar.usf.edu

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of death qualification, belief in a just world (BJW), legal authoritarianism (RLAQ), and locus of control (LOC) on venirepersons' evaluations of aggravating and mitigating circumstances in capital trials. 212 venirepersons from the 12th Judicial Circuit in Bradenton, FL, completed a booklet that contained the following: one question that measured their attitudes toward the death penalty; one question that categorized their death-qualification status; the BJW, LOC, and RLAQ scales; a summary of the guilt and penalty phases of a capital case; a 26-item measure that required participants to evaluate aggravators, nonstatutory mitigators, and statutory mitigators on a 6-point Likert scale; sentence preference; and standard demographic questions. Results indicated that death-qualified venirepersons were more likely to demonstrate higher endorsements of aggravating factors and lower endorsements of both nonstatutory and statutory mitigating factors. Death-qualified participants were also more likely to have a high belief in a just world, espouse legal authoritarian beliefs, and exhibit an internal locus of control. Findings also suggested that venirepersons with a low belief in a just world and an external locus of control demonstrated higher endorsements of statutory mitigators. Participants with legal authoritarian beliefs revealed higher endorsements of aggravators and lower endorsements of nonstatutory mitigators. Legal implications and applications are discussed.

PMID:
17285584
DOI:
10.1002/bsl.734
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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