Date of Award

1986

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

This mock jury study assessed the feasibility of utilizing Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) as a substantive defense in a capital case. One hundred-eighty mock jurors were asked to render judgments in identical cases of spouse murder with one of three defenses: (1) temporary insanity due to PMS; (2) temporary insanity with a reported history of psychiatric treatment; and (3) temporary insanity brought about by extreme emotional trauma. Results indicated that mock jurors rejected an insanity defense for the PMS defendant. Jurors were more willing to render an NGRI (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity) verdict for the defendant with a documented history of mental illness. Conviction rates, however, were similar for the PMS defendant and the defendant who employed a defense of temporary insanity brought about by extreme emotional trauma. This finding, as well as the fact that the PMS defendant received significantly shorter sentences, led to speculation that the PMS defense, while perhaps not viable as a substantive defense, may be useful in cases of diminished capacity. Responses to the PMS defense also varied as a function of more general attitudes concerning menstruation and sex of mock juror. Male jurors who believed menstruation to be psychologically and physically debilitating were more accepting of the insanity defense for the PMS defendant. Denial of the effects of menstruation was associated with higher conviction rates for female mock jurors. Longer sentences were obtained from female mock jurors who reported that menstruation is an event that can be easily predicted or anticipated. Other background/demographic variables shown to influence jurors' decision-making were level of education, degree of religious commitment, and a history of personal experience with PMS. Finally, the results of the regression analysis revealed that factors predictive of an NGRI verdict for the PMS defendant included a higher level of education, a belief that menstruation is debilitating, and single marital status. Predictive of longer sentencing were denial of the effects of menstruation, lower occupational prestige, and below-mean age level.

Pages

219

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