Document Type



Published in: Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, Volume 10, Number 1, 2014.


In the current study we examined how jurors utilize evidence of childhood abuse as a function of expert testimony and sentence recommendation. We also varied the specificity of instructional language in the context of mitigating circumstances. We predicted jurors who impose a life sentence would rate evidence of childhood abuse as significantly more important in determining sentence compared to jurors who impose the death penalty. Furthermore, we expected this effect to be moderated by expert testimony. Testimony of childhood abuse increased importance ratings of non-statutory mitigating circumstances. This effect was more evident for jurors who imposed a life sentence compared to those who imposed the death penalty. In addition, specific instructional language influenced how jurors considered circumstances related to the defendant’s life.