Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

February 1999


Published in Aggression and Violent Behavior, 4:1 (1999), pp. 77–92. Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. Used by permission.


The impact that the perceived violence of a crime has on jury decision making has received much controversy lately. Violence may affect juries by how it is presented, as in the case of graphic evidence; its evidentiary purpose, as in establishing a history of violence in domestic abuse cases; and in sentencing, when the question of the heinousness of the crime is raised. Many judicial experts argue that evidence of violence may prejudice juries’ verdicts. There is also concern within the legal community that what constitutes a heinous crime cannot be objectively determined. Psychological research has only just begun to explore these issues. This paper reviews the current legal state of these issues, the arguments and questions that have been raised within the legal community, and the empirical research that has been conducted thus far. The paper concludes with directions for future research that would improve our understanding of how jurors’ perception of violence affects their decisions.