The Depravity Standard for Violent Crimes

In violent crime cases, aggravating factors in United States criminal codes, such as “heinous,” “atrocious,” or “depraved,” are used to distinguish elements of the crime warranting more severe sentencing. These aggravating terms are vaguely defined and applied arbitrarily in violent cases. This pape...

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Bibliographic Details
Authors: Welner, Michael (Author) ; O’Malley, Kate Y. (Author) ; Gonidakis, James (Author) ; Blair, Samantha (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2023
In: International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology
Year: 2023, Volume: 67, Issue: 10/11, Pages: 1037-1060
Online Access: Volltext (lizenzpflichtig)
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Summary:In violent crime cases, aggravating factors in United States criminal codes, such as “heinous,” “atrocious,” or “depraved,” are used to distinguish elements of the crime warranting more severe sentencing. These aggravating terms are vaguely defined and applied arbitrarily in violent cases. This paper details the development of a 25 item Depravity Standard to operationalize an evidence-based approach to distinguishing the worst of violent crimes. The items were applied to 393 detailed case files drawn from several American jurisdictions to develop and refine the item definitions, determine interrater reliability, and mine for the frequency of each item’s occurrence. This information was combined with 1,590 participant responses ranking the relative depravity of each item to develop a straightforward scoring system for measuring depravity in violent cases. The Depravity Standard guide can seamlessly be applied to identify the worst violent crimes, and provide support for those cases that may deserve leniency or early-release.
ISSN:1552-6933
DOI:10.1177/0306624X211058959