Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Criminology

Major Professor

Shayne Jones, Ph.D.

Keywords

Covariates, Perceptions, Adjudication, Sentencing, Stereotypes

Abstract

Statistics show that hate crimes continue to occur in United States, inciting fear and intimidation in minority communities (Petrosino, 1999; Torres, 1999; Saucier et al., 2006; Nolan et al., 2002; Jacobs & Potter, 1997). Although hate crime legislation has been passed, very little research has assessed what impact it has. This is particularly true for jury decision making. The aim of this study was to examine the main effects of type of crime (hate versus non-hate), offender-victim racial composition (African-American/Caucasian), and the interaction between these two variables on ratings of guilt likelihood, deserved punishment, and sentence recommendations after controlling for offender dangerousness, witness credibility, and hate motivation. The first hypothesis assumed that differences in guilt and hate crime adjudications would emerge across the experimental conditions.

The second hypothesis indicated that dangerousness, and hate motivation would exert significant influence on deserved punishment and sentence recommendations; while witness credibility would exert influence on guilt adjudication. The third and fourth hypothesis stated that there would be no main effects of type of crime (hate versus non-hate) and offender-victim racial composition (African-American/Caucasian) on ratings of guilt likelihood, deserved punishment, and sentence recommendations. The fifth hypothesis suggested that there would be interaction effects between type of crime and offender-victim racial composition on ratings of guilt likelihood, deserved punishment, and recommended sentence after controlling for dangerousness, hate motivation, and witness credibility.

Results indicated that there were no main effects for type of crime, offender-victim racial composition, or the interaction between these two variables on ratings of guilt likelihood, deserved punishment, and sentence recommendations. There was a significant interaction effect on ratings of guilt likelihood for aggravated battery; however this interaction disappeared after controlling for offender dangerousness, witness credibility, and hate motivation. Dangerousness and hate motivation appeared to exert influence on the study outcomes. Overall, the findings were not congruent with prior research. It appeared that the covarying factors seemed to exert significant influence on the study outcomes; thus further study is warranted.

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