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NCJ Number: 137093 Find in a Library
Title: Inferring the Criminal Mind: Toward a Bridge Between Legal Doctrine and Psychological Understanding
Journal: Journal of Criminal Justice  Volume:20  Issue:2  Dated:(1992)  Pages:107- 120
Author(s): L J Severance; J Goodman; E F Loftus
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 14
Type: Research (Applied/Empirical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A sample of 46 undergraduate students was used in an experiment to determine how laypeople, asked to serve as jurors, would interpret and apply legal instructions on the definitions of culpable mental states, that is, criminal intent, knowledge, recklessness, or negligence.
Abstract: The findings showed that, with or without instructions, laypeople were not able to reliably make the distinction, fundamental to most criminal codes, between the various criminal mental states. The data demonstrated that subjects were able to distinguish only between the most culpable level (criminal intent) and the least culpable (criminal negligence), whether generating their own definitions or relying on formal legal definitions. The findings suggest that legal definitions should be reworded in language that laypeople can understand or eliminated altogether. The American justice system may be vulnerable to error particularly in criminal cases where jury instructions include lesser offenses which require the jurors to decide on a criminal defendant's particular mental state. 4 tables, 1 note, and 27 references (Author abstract modified)
Main Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Jury instructions
Index Term(s): Definitions; Jury decisionmaking
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