Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Jonathan M. Golding


The influence of mental illness on jury decision-making has rarely been investigated, and even fewer studies have examined how jurors perceive a victim with mental illness. The present study investigated the effect of victim mental illness on jury decision-making in a rape trial using a 3 (victim mental health status: schizophrenia, depression, no illness) x 2 (participant gender: female, male) between-subjects design. I hypothesized that mock jurors would render fewer guilty verdicts in the schizophrenia condition compared to the depression condition, and render fewer guilty verdicts in the schizophrenia and depression conditions compared to the control. I also hypothesized that victim mental illness would indirectly effect verdict through perceptions related to victim credibility, sympathy toward the victim, and severity of the victim's mental illness. Lastly, I anticipated that female participants would be more pro-victim (e.g., more guilty verdicts) than male participants. Participants (N = 270) read a rape trial summary in which the victim's mental illness was manipulated. They were then asked to render a verdict and answer questions about their perceptions of the victim and defendant. The results indicated that mock juror perceptions and decision-making depended on the type of mental illness the rape victim was labeled as having, as participants were more pro-victim in the control and depression conditions compared to the schizophrenia condition. It was also found that victim mental health status indirectly effected verdict through perceptions of victim credibility, victim sympathy, and victim mental health severity. Lastly, I found several significant 2-way interactions, and I used cognitive network models to demonstrate that victim mental health status was a primary factor in participant decision-making. Implications are discussed in terms of the impact of these findings on courtroom strategy, and stigmatizing attitudes towards those with mental illness.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)