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Factors affecting juror decision-making in infanticide and insanity cases


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Gordon, HD 2010 , 'Factors affecting juror decision-making in infanticide and insanity cases', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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LITERATURE REVIEW Infanticide, the murder of a child aged between 24 hours and 12 months, dates
back to Ancient Greece, where it was primarily used for population control. It
still occurs in modem society, although illegally, and is often associated with the
mother experiencing a postpartum illness (Laporte et al., 2003). In Tasmania, if a
woman murders her child under the age of 12 months, she may plead guilty to
the legislated crime of Infanticide. This offers her a lesser charge of
manslaughter, resulting in a variety of sentencing options including psychiatric
treatment. In contrast, as American law does not incorporate the Infanticide
provision, the defendant must prove that she is Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.
This incorporates a legal, rather than psychiatric, conception of insanity, or
mental illness (Yannoulidis, 2003). This has led to critics arguing that the
Infanticide provision is redundant and stereotypes women as being susceptible to
mental disorders. Further, it is argued that the insanity defence needs to be
updated to incorporate a psychological definition of insanity as generally
understood by the public (Osborne, 1997). Whilst it is accepted that juror
characteristics interplay to affect their decision-making and verdicts rendered,
there are areas where little information exists as to the effects of specific
attributes (for example, gender of the juror). Skeem, Louden and Evans (2004)
argued that the Insanity Defence Attitudes Scale-Revised (IDA-R) can help
researchers predict jurors' verdicts regarding insanity cases depending on how
negatively they score on the scale. However, in order to develop a greater
understanding of what attributes affect juror's verdicts, more fine-grained
research is required, including exploring infanticide cases and leading to an
updated insanity defence. EMPIRICAL STUDY This study examined the effect of juror characteristics when rendering verdicts
on an infanticide case, as well as investigating the efficaciousness of the
infanticide provision and insanity defence. 437 participants aged between 17 to
62 years were asked to complete two questionnaires (Insanity Defence Attitudes Revised
scale and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale), read a case
vignette and render individual verdicts regarding the criminal responsibility of
the defendant in question. The results of this study indicated that a defendant's
psychological history (either a single episode or recurring) had little influence
over a mock jurors' decision, however a woman experiencing postpartum
depression (in contrast to postpartum psychosis) was more likely to be convicted
of murder. Further, the study attempted to examine whether a revised insanity
defence proposed by Yannoulidis (2003) would be more effective and easier to
understand than the traditional insanity defence. The study offers support for the
revised insanity defence, with this verdict being rendered more often than a
guilty of murder verdict, compared to the traditional insanity defence. Whilst
female mock jurors' reported higher levels of sympathy towards the victim and
defendant compared to males, this did not make a significant impact on their
decision making. The current study offers preliminary findings as to juror
characteristics that interplay on the juror decision making process in infanticide

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Gordon, HD
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 2010 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
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Available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (MPsych(Clin))--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references

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