Defendant Physical Disability and Sentencing in Criminal Cases

D Daley
2015 Foresic Research & Criminology International Journal   unpublished
Two experiments were conducted to examine the impact of a defendant's physical disability on sentencing recommendations in criminal cases. In both experiments, participants were assigned to one of four conditions in a 2 (defendant gender: female, male) x 2 (defendant disability: wheelchair visible or not) factorial design. Participants in both conditions also completed the Belief in Just World Scale (BJW), the Revised Legal Attitudes Questionnaire (RLAQ), and the Attitudes towards the Criminal
more » ... egal System Scale (ATCLS). Participants were then asked to recommend a sentence for the defendant ranging from no period of incarceration to life in prison and to indicate their level of confidence in the recommended sentence. In experiment 1 the defendant was convicted of murder, and in experiment 2 the defendant was convicted of embezzlement. In both experiments, longer sentences were associated with higher scores on the BJW, RLAQ, ATCLS, and male gender. No significant differences were found in recommended sentences for disabled or non-disabled offenders in either condition. Findings suggest that physically disabled offenders are treated no differently than non-physically disabled offenders regardless of defendant gender or type of crime.