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Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances in Capital Trials, Effects on Jurors

Aggravating factors are elements of the crime or the defendant's prior criminal record that not only make the defendant eligible for the death penalty but also serve to make the defendant more likely to receive the death penalty. Mitigating factors are elements of the crime or the defendant's character and background that could make the defendant less likely to receive the death penalty. Statutes across the United States list many aggravating and mitigating factors that could be presented at trial. The existing research in psychology and law shows that jurors are sensitive to some factors but not to others. Experimental research has compared hypothetical cases in which various aggravating and mitigating factors are either present or absent. Other research, especially the Capital Jury Project, has ...

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