Dr. Erin Murdoch


It is a common misconception that individuals with schizophrenia are significantly more dangerous and violent than individuals free of mental illness. This stigmatization may lead to harsher sentences when people with schizophrenia are involved in criminal activities and sentenced by a jury. This study presented four conditions to which participants were randomly assigned, alone or in a group of three, and were asked to sentence a defendant, either with or without schizophrenia. It was hypothesized that group deliberations would result in more lenient sentences for defendants with schizophrenia as compared to individual deliberations. Furthermore, it was predicted that both group and individual deliberations would result in harsher sentences for defendants with schizophrenia than defendants who were described as free of mental illness. Results revealed that defendants with schizophrenia were sentenced in a more lenient manner than defendants with no mental illness. However, several additional findings indicated an indirect negative attitude toward the mentally ill defendant.

About the Author

Marie L. Sabbagh will graduate from UCF in May 2012 with a B.S. in psychology, a minor in criminal justice, and a certificate in behavioral forensics. She is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, served as president of Psi Chi International Honor Society at UCF's Cocoa Beach campus, interned with UCF Victim Services/Police Department, and is currently a Research Assistant with the UCF Anxiety Disorders Clinic. Her research interests focus on establishing evidence-based juvenile sex offender assessment, prevention, and treatment programs. She plans to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic/Law and Psychology specialization.



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