A psychopath will be sentenced to a year less in the slammer if he can afford an oftentimes pricey expert witness who will testify to the biological causes of his condition.
That's the startling new findings of a first-of-its-kind study conducted by University of Utah researchers who surveyed judges around the nation about a hypothetical - and savage - case.
'In a nationwide sample of judges,' James Tabery, the study's coauthor, reportedly said, 'we found that expert testimony ...significantly reduced sentencing of the psychopath from almost 14 years to less than 13 years.'
By the same token, a madman usually gets slapped with a longer sentence for the same crime committed by an ordinary person, according to the study.
To wit, judges, on average, impose about a nine-year term for aggravated assault, when committing the same crime usually nets a psycho 13 or 14, the study states.
The report, published in the Aug. 17, 2012 edition of Science, surveyed 181 judges in 19 states. Here's how it worked:
Participating judges got a scenario based on a real Georgia case about a psycho convicted of beating a store clerk with a gun during an attempted robbery.
The jurists then answered questions, including the sentence they would impose.
Judges who heard an expert witness imposed sentences averaging 12.83 years, the study states, or about a year less than the 13.93-years imposed by the control group.
Also, the results varied. In three states – Colorado, New York and Tennessee – expert testimony actually increased the sentence.
In eight others – Alabama, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington – the testimony reduced the sentence or had no effect.
'We saw sentencing go up in a few states and down in most, and that's just evidence that it could cut either way,' coauthor Teneille Brown reportedly said.
Brown is a University of Utah associate professor of law. MedicalxPress was the first to report on the new, groundbreaking study,
For the record, judges were told psychopathy is an incurable illness, and that treatment isn't an option. The illness isn't yet a formal diagnosis in the manual used by psychiatrists.
But it may soon be added, Tabery says.
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