Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Emily Haney-Caron

Second Reader

Jennifer Perillo

Third Advisor

Michael Lieppe


Abstract: This study explored the impact of defendant age, race and stereotypic crime on verdicts and recommended sentencing of juveniles tried as adults. Previous research shows that jurors enter trial with negative preconceptions and biases of juveniles because they are being tried within an adult venue. These negative preconceptions have led jurors to recommend harsher sentencing for juveniles rather than adults with the same defendant characteristics and criminal history. Crime type and crime severity have also been shown to impact perceptions of juvenile defendants in adult court. However, research has not yet explored the potential impact that stereotypic crime—a crime that is associated with particular groups of people (e.g., African Americans and theft)—has on juveniles tried within an adult venue. The current study expanded on past literature that has shown that race and age of the juvenile impacts sentencing by examining how race, age and crime stereotypicality influence verdict and sentencing decisions. One thousand eleven participants read case vignettes that differed on race, defendant age, and crime stereotypicality and then rendered a verdict, recommended sentencing, and rated perceptions of the defendant. We found that participants exposed to White defendants rendered more guilty verdicts than those exposed to Black defendants. Additionally, we found that adult defendants were more likely to be found not guilty than juvenile defendants. Furthermore, although defendants were more likely to be found guilty when crime was congruent with race, sentencing recommendations were only impacted by the crime itself rather than by the interaction between crime and race. Results from this study contribute to the ongoing discussion in the field examining the complex interactions of defendant race with other extralegal factors.



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