Exploring the Relationship Between Acceptance of Violence, Attitudes About the Death Penalty, and Perception of Mental Health Testimony in Capital Cases

Jacqueline K. Buffington-Vollum, Sam Houston State University
Dennis Longmire, Sam Houston State University
John F. Edens, Sam Houston State University

ABSTRACT
Despite the fact that mental health testimony in capital cases has come under attack in recent years, a deeper consideration of the attitudinal factors involved in the perception of and response to mental health testimony has not been addressed fully. In this paper, it is hypothesized that acceptance of violence and attitudes about the death penalty affect one's reception to mental health testimony in capital cases. This paper examines this interrelationship and considers the value-expressive nature of the underlying attitudes. Questions assessing these constructs were included as part of the annual Texas Crime Poll, which was administered to a state-wide representative sample of 750 citizens. A descriptive analysis of general attitudes about violence, as well as a more complex analysis of the use of mental health testimony, will be presented. Finally, policy implications of the value-expressive nature of individuals' attitudes toward criminal justice issues will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006