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The effect of the psychopathy checklist – revised in capital cases: Mock jurors' responses to the label of psychopathy

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Abstract

Despite mixed empirical evidence regarding the ability of the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R) to predict violence among incarcerated inmates, it continues to be used to address such questions, even in the context of capital cases. The purpose of this study was to examine if the PCL-R has a prejudicial effect on mock jury members during the sentencing phase of a capital murder trial. Results indicated that participants were more likely to sentence the defendant to death when the defendant exhibited a high likelihood to commit future violence, whether or not the diagnostic label “psychopath” was present. Interestingly, when asked to rate the defendant's likelihood for future violence and murder, the defendant who was a high risk for future violence and not labeled a psychopath received the highest rating. These results suggest an absence of juror bias as it pertains to the label “psychopath” when sentencing a defendant in a capital murder case. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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