Some problems for juror impartiality

In this paper, I first review some of the recent empirical work on the biasing effect that moral considerations have on folk ascriptions of intentional action. Then, I use Mark Alicke’s affective model of blame attribution to explain this biasing effect. Finally, I discuss the relevance of this research—both philosophical and psychological—to the problem of the partiality of jury deliberation. After all, if the immorality of an action does affect folk ascriptions of intentionality, and all serious criminal offenses—e.g., murder and rape—are immoral in addition to being illegal, then a juror’s ability to determine the relevant mens rea (i.e., guilty mind) of a defendant in an unbiased way may be seriously undermined.
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