The use of religion in death penalty sentencing trials

Monica K. Miller, Brian H. Bornstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-684
Number of pages10
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Attorney arguments
  • Capital punishment
  • Death penalty
  • Jury decision making
  • Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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