Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Criminology

Major Professor

Smith, Dwayne.

Keywords

Sentencing outcome, Arbitrariness, Capital punishment, 1st degree murder, Mitigating circumstances

Abstract

This study focuses on the influence of mitigating circumstances on the sentencing outcome before and after the McKoy (1990) decision. In McKoy (1990) the Supreme Court decided that the jurors did not have to find mitigating circumstances unanimously. Results are reported based on a sample of North Carolina first-degree murder cases where the state sought the death penalty. Logistic regression is used to determine the importance of mitigating circumstances as predictors of jury decision-making in North Carolina, controlling for the variety of other factors that influence that decision. The descriptive statistics show that the average number of mitigating circumstances submitted and accepted had doubled in the post-McKoy cases. At the same time, the number of aggravating circumstances presented and submitted stayed about the same.

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