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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2012;40(1):41-9.

Defendant remorse, need for affect, and juror sentencing decisions.

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Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA.


Defendant remorse is generally accepted as a mitigating factor in capital murder sentencing in the legal system. The current study addressed whether verbal and nonverbal expressions of defendant remorse are perceived as remorseful by mock jurors. Moreover, this study investigated the associations of defendant behaviors and mock juror need for affect on sentencing decisions. Participants watched a video of a defendant depicting either high or low levels of verbal and nonverbal remorseful behavior. Results indicated that nonverbal behaviors were more important than verbal cues for perception of remorse. Incongruent verbal and nonverbal behavior, as well as mock juror willingness to approach emotional situations (i.e., high need for affect (NFA)) resulted in more lenient sentences for defendants. Implications for the remorse construct, for witness preparation, and for jury selection are discussed.

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