Judgments about Felony-Murder in Hindsight

Authors

  • Andrew J. Evelo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, USA
    • Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, USA
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  • Edie Greene

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, USA
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  • This study served as a Master's Thesis by the first author. Portions of the study were presented at the conference of the American Psychology–Law Society (2012).

Correspondence to: Andrew J. Evelo, Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, 445 W. 59th St., New York, NY 10019.

E-mail: aevelo@gc.cuny.edu

Summary

The purpose of this research was to investigate the role of hindsight bias in application of the felony-murder law, a controversial rule stating that felons can be held responsible for any foreseeable deaths that occur as a result of their felony. Some versions of the rule involve notions of proximate cause requiring legal decision makers to determine foreseeability and assess case evidence. Those judgments may be biased by outcome information and the process of cognitive sense-making. Jury eligible participants read a crime vignette modeled on an actual felony-murder case manipulated with regard to outcome information and relevant case facts. They made likelihood judgments and rated felons on intent and culpability. Results indicated that outcome information biased death likelihood ratings in hindsight but did not significantly affect assessments of case evidence. Implications for further applied cognitive research regarding the felony-murder rule are discussed. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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