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Sorting Guilty Minds

dc.contributor.authorJones, Owen D.
dc.contributor.authorShen, Francis X.
dc.contributor.authorHoffman, Morris B.
dc.contributor.authorGreene, Joshua D.
dc.contributor.authorMarois, Rene
dc.identifier.citation86 New York University Law Review 1306 (2011)en_US
dc.descriptionarticle published in a law reviewen_US
dc.description.abstractBecause punishable guilt requires that bad thoughts accompany bad acts, the Model Penal Code (MPC) typically requires that jurors infer the past mental state of a criminal defendant. More specifically, jurors must sort that mental state into one of four specific categories - purposeful, knowing, reckless, or negligent - which in turn defines the nature of the crime and the extent of the punishment. The MPC therefore assumes that ordinary people naturally sort mental states into these four categories with a high degree of accuracy, or at least can reliably do so when properly instructed. It also assumes that ordinary people will order these categories of mental state, by increasing amount of punishment, in the same severity hierarchy that the MPC prescribes. The MPC, now turning 50 years old, has previously escaped the scrutiny of comprehensive empirical research on these assumptions underlying its culpability architecture. Our new empirical studies, reported here, find that most of the mens rea assumptions embedded in the MPC are reasonably accurate as a behavioral matter. Even without the aid of the MPC definitions, subjects were able to regularly and accurately distinguish among purposeful, negligent, and blameless conduct. Nevertheless, our subjects failed to distinguish reliably between knowing and reckless conduct. This failure can have significant sentencing consequences in some types of crimes, especially homicide.en_US
dc.format.extent1 PDF (56 pages)en_US
dc.publisherNew York University Law Reviewen_US
dc.subjectmental stateen_US
dc.subjectModel Penal Codeen_US
dc.subjectmens reaen_US
dc.subject.lcshcriminal lawen_US
dc.subject.lcshlaw and psychologyen_US
dc.titleSorting Guilty Mindsen_US

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