The role of declarative and procedural knowledge in capital murder sentencing

Richard L. Wiener, Linda E. Hurt, Susan L. Thomas, Melody S. Sadler, Craig A. Bauer, Tracy M. Sargent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This paper identifies rational orderliness and moral appropriateness as 2 norms that the United States Constitution requires for sentencing in capital murder trials. The courts convey these norms directly to jurors through jury instructions in the penalty phase of capital murder trials. To follow the instructions, jurors require accurate declarative knowledge (rules of law) and procedural knowledge (processes required to execute the rules) of state and federal sentencing law. Undergraduate mock jurors showed low accuracy for both types of knowledge after reviewing and listening to pattern jury instructions. Participants failed to offset aggravating factors with mitigating circumstances as the Missouri Approved Jury Instructions direct. The less knowledge that participants mastered about mitigation, the more certain they were of invoking the death penalty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-144
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 16 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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