Attitudes, anger, and nullification instructions influence jurors’ verdicts in euthanasia cases

Courts have historically avoided informing jurors about their nullification power (i.e. the power to return a not-guilty verdict when their conscience demands it but the law directs otherwise), fearing that such knowledge would prompt disregard for the law and reliance on attitudes and emotions rath...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Peter-Hagene, Liana C. (Author)
Other Authors: Bottoms, Bette L. (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2017
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2017, Volume: 23, Issue: 10, Pages: 983-1009
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Courts have historically avoided informing jurors about their nullification power (i.e. the power to return a not-guilty verdict when their conscience demands it but the law directs otherwise), fearing that such knowledge would prompt disregard for the law and reliance on attitudes and emotions rather than evidence. We investigated jurors’ inclination to nullify the law in a morally ambiguous case of physician-assisted suicide, testing the impact of euthanasia attitudes on case judgments as well as moderators and mediators of that effect. Mock jurors with pro-euthanasia attitudes were overall less likely to vote guilty than anti-euthanasia jurors, especially when they were given jury instructions informing them of jurors’ power to nullify. Nullification instructions also exacerbated the effect of jurors’ attitudes on anger, disgust, and moral outrage toward the defendant - emotions that mediated the effect of attitudes on verdicts. We also tested the impact of incidentally induced anger on jurors’ reliance on their attitudes rather than the law, given anger’s propensity to increase certainty and heuristic processing. Anger enhanced mock jurors’ reliance on their attitudes under certain conditions. Theoretical and practical implications for understanding juror decision-making are discussed.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2017.1351967