Prosecutor pretrial attitudes and plea-bargaining behavior toward veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder

Jennifer Kelly Wilson, Stanley L. Brodsky, Tess M.S. Neal, Robert J. Cramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Prosecutors are handling increasing numbers of criminal cases concerning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). How these prosecutors handle such cases may reflect their attitudes toward veterans or offenders with PTSD. In turn, their attitudes may affect perceptions of blameworthiness, as well as negotiations about sentencing during the pretrial stage. The present study investigated the effect of a defendant's military experience and mental health status (i.e., PTSD) on prosecutors' offers at the pretrial stage and their ratings of the defendant's blameworthiness. Prosecutors' offers were more lenient to stress-disordered veterans; specifically, they were offered more diversion programs as compared with veterans without PTSD and to other offenders with PTSD. Prosecutors also perceived veterans and those with PTSD as less criminally culpable; they also empathized and identified more with veterans and those with PTSD than nonveterans and offenders without PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-331
Number of pages13
JournalPsychological Services
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Criminal justice system
  • Plea-bargaining
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Prosecutors
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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