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NCJ Number: 134833 Find in a Library
Title: Crowd Psychology in South African Murder Trials
Journal: American Psychologist  Volume:46  Issue:10  Dated:(October 1991)  Pages:1071-1079
Author(s): A M Colman
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 9
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Expert testimony presented in two recent South African murder trials have contributed to an important legal breakthrough and a significant development in the history of applied psychology.
Abstract: In one trial, in which eight members of the South African Railways and Harbour Workers Union were accused of murdering four strikebreakers during an industrial dispute, the court accepted psychological phenomena as extenuating circumstances for four of the defendants; these phenomena included conformity, obedience, group polarization, deindividuation, and bystander apathy. The court rejected the extenuating circumstances for the other defendants, who had played a more active part in the killings; however, their death sentences were eventually set aside by an appeals court that held that the State had not succeeded in disproving the psychological evidence. In the retrial of the Queenstown Six, accused of a "necklace" killing, the court reduced the defendants' sentences in light of similar social psychological testimony. The author notes that psychologists called to testify as expert witnesses face ethical dilemmas in deciding whether or not to testify and how to present their testimony. 34 references
Main Term(s): Expert witnesses; Psychological influences on crime
Index Term(s): Group behavior; South Africa
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