20 Sentencing Determinations in Death Penalty Cases

Forensic Psychology


  1. Mark D. Cunningham PhD, ABPP1,
  2. Alan M. Goldstein PhD, ABPP2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop211020

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Cunningham, M. D. and Goldstein, A. M. 2012. Sentencing Determinations in Death Penalty Cases. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 11:III:20.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Private Practice, Dallas, Texas, USA

  2. 2

    City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Mental health professionals may be called upon in capital sentencing or appellate review to provide case-specific and/or scientific perspectives regarding factors that may be considered mitigating, the defendant's risk of serious violence in the future, and/or whether the defendant is a person with mental retardation. Subsequently, mental health professionals may be called upon to evaluate competency to waive appeals and competence for execution. This participation in illuminating capital sentencing determinations is a functional expression of a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions emphasizing heightened standards of reliability and individualized sentencing, as well as the relationship between psychological status and moral culpability. Mental health evaluations in death penalty cases call for specialized knowledge and familiarity with the complex considerations associated with both the role of the expert and the parameters of the assessment.


  • capital punishment;
  • death penalty;
  • bifurcated trial;
  • aggravating factors;
  • mitigating factors;
  • risk assessment