Dr. Mark Thomas
Type of Resources
New evidence has emerged over the last few decades that demonstrates that the brains of some criminal offenders are structurally and functionally different from non-offenders. This evidence suggests that some people may not have the physical brain structure and functioning – often due to factors beyond their control – to make thoughtful, empathetic, and rational decisions. Therefore, some have questioned whether such individuals should be held to the same degree of culpability (responsibility) as those without brain damage, deficiency, or dysfunction. Additionally, this neurological evidence has been shown to influence jury decision-making as a mitigating factor. The present study aims to test the relationship between perceptions of the crime and the criminal, assigned responsibility (free will), and post-trial story status (the verdict). The theoretical framework used for this analysis is Dennis J. Devine’s ‘Director’s Cut’ Integrative Multi-Level Theory of jury decision-making. This is the first study to incorporate considerations of characteristics of the case, perceptions of the defendant, and neurological evidence and its effect on the verdict and adds to the limited existing data regarding juror determination of the defendants’ free will from neurological evidence. The data was collected in 2020 by Dr. Paul Hawkins via a Qualtrics survey. In the current study, 276 death-qualified and jury-eligible participants were analyzed through SPSS statistics software. Results suggest that biological evidence did not severely mitigate or aggravate the jury’s decision and that the perception of the defendant is the most influential factor in post-trial story status.