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Thesis

Abstract

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to sentence adolescents charged with non-homicide crimes to life without parole (Graham v. Florida, 2012). Currently, research regarding life without parole is assessed in conjunction with the death penalty, in which life without parole is proposed as a lesser alternative to the death penalty. The current study investigated whether age and race are predictive factors in sentencing juvenile offenders. A sample consisting of 225 undergraduate students were presented with one of six case scenarios adapted from Wilkins v. Missouri (1985) in which the defendant’s age (13, 15, 17) and race (Caucasian, African American) were varied. Thirteen-year-old defendants were significantly more likely to receive a less severe alternative sentence to life without parole. Furthermore, African American defendants were significantly more likely to receive more severe sentences. These findings provide implications for changes in current policy and jury selection processes.



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