The Influence of Victim Attributes on Capital Murder Sentencing Decisions

Stephen W. Verrill, University of South Florida
Amy Reckdenwald, University of South Florida
Janine Kremling, University of South Florida

ABSTRACT
Expanding on a literature suggesting that individual characteristics of victims may play a role in jury decisions, this study explores the impact of selected victim characteristics on sentencing outcomes in a sample of North Carolina capital murder trials. The characteristics explored include (a) illegal activity of the victim at the time of the offense, (b) age of the victim, (c) marital status of the victim, (d) gender of the victim, and (e) prior criminal offense record. All relationships are controlled via a set of legal and extralegal factors known to influence the sentencing outcomes of capital murder cases. Implications of the findings are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006