Thesis Defense Announcement
The College of Arts and Sciences announces the Final Thesis Defense of
for the Degree of Master of Science
on June 22, 2018 at 3:00 PM in Psychology Building, Room 244
Advisor: Leslie Robinson
Relations Between Experience with Mental Illness and the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity Plea
ABSTRACT: The Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity plea is one of the most controversial defense strategies that can be used in the modern legal system. In spite of this controversy, very little research has been done to explore variables that may have an impact on jurors' likelihood of assigning the plea. The aim of this study was to determine whether having previous experience with mental illness increased the odds of a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity verdict in a vignette of a criminal case. A second aim was to explore the reliability and validity of the measure of previous experience with mental illness as created for this study. A sample of undergraduate students (N = 268) were presented with a vignette of a subject on trial for attempted murder and were asked to assign a verdict. Measures of previous experience with mental illness, attitudes toward the criminal legal system, stigma toward mental illness, and religious fundamentalism were also included in the survey. Reliability and validity analyses as well as an exploratory factor analysis were performed on the measure of previous experience with mental illness. Results supported the reliability and validity of the measure. Further, logistic regression was used to determine whether previous experience with mental illness, attitudes toward the criminal legal system, stigma toward mental illness, and religious fundamentalism predicted verdict choice in univariate analyses. None of the four measures were able to predict verdict choice. Our findings suggest that although the measures were not predictive of verdict choice, there is evidence that the newly created measure of previous experience with mental illness may be useful in future research. Further, research regarding factors related to the assignment of a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity plea remains limited and warrants further research.