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Victim impact statements and crime heinousness: a test of the saturation hypothesis

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In Payne v. Tennessee (1991), it was argued that the harmful effects of a victim impact statement (VIS) during sentencing are diminished as the heinousness of the crime increases. We tested this hypothesis by giving 180 mock jurors a summary of a murder trial that varied the presence/absence of VIS along with the crime heinousness (more/less). Participants gave significantly harsher sentencing ratings when VIS was present than when it was absent, and crime heinousness also significantly affected sentencing ratings. However, a significant heinousness by VIS interaction failed to emerge for sentencing, perceptions of victim suffering, or anger toward defendant.

Keywords: crime heinousness; death penalty; mock jurors; victim impact statements

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, USA 2: University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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