Post-Partum Depression and the Insanity Defense

Steven D. Hurwitz, Tiffin University
Carrie D. Baldock, Tiffin University

The paper explores jury decision-making in a case detailing a mother who killed her two children, ages six months and five. After reading the details of the crime, prosecution arguments, defense arguments, and expert testimony that the defendant suffered from postpartum depression with psychotic features, subjects were asked to render a verdict and sentence. Additionally, participants expressed their level of agreement with several Likert-type statements regarding perceptions of evidence in the case relevant to the insanity defense. One hundred and twenty subjects were evenly divided into four equal groups within a 2x2 factorial design based on gender and parental status. As expected, parents were more punitive, overall, in sentencing than non-parents. There were, however, different patterns of sentencing depending upon gender. Implications for jury selection in such cases are also discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006