Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Law and Human Behavior, 30 (2006), pp. 675–684. Copyright © American Psychology-Law Society/ Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2006. Published by Springer. Used by permission.


Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have presented religious appeals and testimony about a defendant’s religious activities in order to influence capital jurors’ sentencing. Courts that have objected to this use of religion fear that religion will improperly influence jurors’ decisions and interfere with their ability to weigh aggravators and mitigators. This study investigated the effects of both prosecution and defense appeals. Prosecution appeals did not affect verdict decisions; however, use of religion by the defense affected both verdicts and the weighing of aggravators and mitigators. These results could be due to differences in perceived sincerity and remorse that are conveyed in the various appeals.