Effects of Defendant Background and Remorse on Sentencing Judgments


  • Michael C. Rumsey

    1. Purdue Universiv
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    • 1

      Now at the Army Research Institute.

    • 2

      Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Michael G. Rumsey, U.S. Army Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 1300 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia 22209.


Previous evidence that subject sentencing judgments are mediated by considerations of equity led to the hypothesis that defendant remorse and an impoverished defendant background would each reduce subject sentencing judgments. Results from 48 male and 48 female student subjects showed that remorse had the predicted effect (p < .02) but background did not. Regardless of the initial manipulation, sentences shifted significantly toward leniency (p < .02) after subjects had engaged in group discussion. The effect for remorse is consistent with the contention that the equity principle extends to psychological factors, while the leniency shift raises the possibility that jury deliberations tend to favor the defendant.