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NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: (June 1993) Pages: 289-312
M Kasian; N P Spanos; C A Terrance; S Peebles
Date Published
24 pages
Two experiments, using samples of mock jurors, assess acquittal rates in cases involving a battered woman charged with killing her husband.
In the first experiment, a sample of 237 psychology students watched one of four videotapes depicting the trial of a battered woman defendant; two of the tapes included the testimony of an expert witness. The jurors also heard cases in which only the plea differed: automatism or self-defense. Jurors rated the defendant's credibility, based on the tapes, and then voted on a verdict. The results showed that jurors were most likely to convict the defendant when she pleaded self-defense as opposed to automatism. In addition, jurors were likely to convict her despite expert testimony concerning the battered woman's syndrome. In the second experiment, 369 psychology students acted as mock jurors, and watched one of six videotapes that simulated the trial of a battered woman; the frequency and severity of abuse was varied, as was the defense employed by the woman. When the psychological self- defense plea was used, it gained more acquittals than the traditional self-defense plea, but fewer than the automatism plea. While results showed that the effects of abuse severity prior to the homicide played a role in the number of acquittals, the degree to which abuse was varied was irrelevant to how the jurors viewed the defendant's mental stability. The finding in both experiments that jurors were more likely to acquit in the automatism condition supports the hypothesis that most jurors found the defendant's behavior morally defensible but legally culpable. 1 table, 3 figures, and 49 references


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