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The Role of Death Qualification in Venirepersons' Attitudes Toward the Insanity Defense


  • 1This research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychology–Law Society, Edinburgh, Scotland, July 2003. The authors thank Adam Tebrugge and Linda Whitehead for their assistance.


Three hundred venirepersons from the 12th Judicial Circuit in Florida completed a booklet of stimulus materials that contained the following: one question that specified participants' level of support for the death penalty; one Witt death-qualification question; a case scenario that included a summary of the guilt and penalty phases of a capital case; verdict and sentencing preferences; a 16-item measure that required participants to rate their receptiveness to the insanity defense on a 6-point Likert scale; and standard demographic questions. Results indicated that death-qualified venirepersons, when compared to excludables, were more likely to endorse certain insanity myths, find the defendant guilty, and sentence the defendant to death. Legal implications are discussed.