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Published in: Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, Vol. 2, no. 2, 2006, p. 84-101


In this study, we addressed whether victim impact instructions served as a legal safeguard in a capital case involving victim impact testimony. We hypothesized that specific victim impact instructions would moderate the relation between victim impact testimony and death penalty recommendations. One hundred sixty-six participants viewed a simulated videotaped trial in which a victim impact statement was delivered in different emotional conditions. Judge’s instructions were varied as either general instructions or with the addition of specific victim impact instructions. Participant-jurors who heard specific victim impact instructions were less likely to recommend death compared to participants who heard general jury instructions. The value of victim impact instructions as a legal safeguard in capital trials is discussed.

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