Jurors are subject to many biases that hinder their ability to make objective decisions and nullification may occur when the jury believes the law is unfair or immoral. In a case involving euthanasia, a defendant may not be viewed as having committed a crime if it was done out of mercy and a jury may be more likely to choose to nullify as a result. However, nullification can encourage jurors to make decisions based on their attitudes and subjective interpretations of events. One unexplored potential influence on euthanasia attitudes and the decision to nullify may be the manner of death. It is also unknown how the public views euthanasia when it is performed by a physician compared to a family member or friend. Two studies were performed to fill these gaps. First, opinions of and reactions to 17 different manners of death in euthanasia cases were examined in a sample of the general public. This study found varying ratings of the 17 euthanasia methods, and the methods of “lethal injection”, “bag smother”, and “head smash” were selected for further examination in Study 2. In the second study, participants from the general public acted as mock jurors in a euthanasia case that varies by manner of death, perpetrator, and presence of nullification instructions. The results of Study 2 revealed significant effects of method and perpetrator on sentence, with a case involving a wife and lethal injection receiving the lowest sentences. It was found that jurors were most likely to nullify in a case that provided nullification instructions and involved a wife using lethal injection for euthanasia. This finding suggests that different circumstances of a euthanasia case will affect jurors’ propensity to focus on personal sympathies and interpretations. Limitations and future directions are discussed. Keywords: jury decision-making, jury nullification, euthanasia, manner of death.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Euthanasia--Public opinion; Euthanasia--Law and legislation; Euthanasia--Moral and ethical aspects

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Experimental Psychology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Psychology (CLA)


John E. Edlund

Advisor/Committee Member

Jason D. Scott

Advisor/Committee Member

Brian P. Barry


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at R726 .B35 2017


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes