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Abstract

It is a common misconception that individuals with schizophrenia are significantly more dangerous and violent than individuals free of mental illness. This stigmatization may lead to harsher sentences when people with schizophrenia are involved in criminal activities and sentenced by a jury. This study presented four conditions to which participants were randomly assigned, alone or in a group of three, and were asked to sentence a defendant, either with or without schizophrenia. It was hypothesized that group deliberations would result in more lenient sentences for defendants with schizophrenia as compared to individual deliberations. Furthermore, it was predicted that both group and individual deliberations would result in harsher sentences for defendants with schizophrenia than defendants who were described as free of mental illness. Results revealed that defendants with schizophrenia were sentenced in a more lenient manner than defendants with no mental illness. However, several additional findings indicated an indirect negative attitude toward the mentally ill defendant.

KEY WORDS: schizophrenia, sentencing, jury size, deliberation time, mental illness

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