Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

M. Dwayne Smith, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Christine Sellers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wesley Jennings, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Holly Hills, Ph.D.


death penalty, extralegal characteristics, victim sex, juror discretion, gender


The potential influence of extralegal characteristics on the outcome of post-Furman capital cases (1972) has been a focus of criminal justice researchers and legal scholars. Much of this literature has assessed the impact of victim and defendant race on the likelihood of receiving the death penalty while a relatively underdeveloped body of research focuses on how victim sex may affect capital sentencing decisions. The present study uses focal concerns theory and the chivalry hypothesis to test the potential mediating effect of theoretical variables on the relationship between victim sex and juror capital sentence decision-making. In addition, it uses victim sex specific logistic regression models to examine if different theoretical and/or control variables are important predictors of receiving the death penalty for male victim cases versus female victim cases. Findings demonstrate that victim rape mediates the relationship between victim sex and juror death penalty decision-making. In addition, findings reveal that sex specific models better explain juror decision making than the full model including victims of both sexes and that different extralegal and legal characteristics predict juror decision to choose the death penalty in cases with male victims versus female victims. Theoretical and legal implications as well as directions for future research are discussed.