Excusing murder? Conservative Jurors’ Acceptance of the Gay Panic Defense

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We conducted a simulated trial study to investigate the effectiveness of a “gay-panic” provocation defense as a function of jurors’ political orientation. Mock jurors read about a murder case in which a male defendant claimed a victim provoked the killing by starting a fight, which either included or did not include the male victim making an unwanted sexual advance that triggered a state of panic in the defendant. Conservative jurors were significantly less punitive when the defendant claimed to have acted out of gay panic as compared to when this element was not part of the defense. In contrast, liberal jurors were unaffected by the gay-panic manipulation. The effect of the gay-panic defense on punitiveness was mediated by conservatives’ decreased moral outrage toward the defendant. Implications for psychological theory and the legal system are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Salerno, J. M., Najdowski, C. J., Bottoms, B. L., Harrington, E., Kemner, G.,* & Dave, R. (2015). Excusing murder? Conservative jurors’ acceptance of the gay panic defense. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 21, 24-34. DOI: 10.1037/law0000024

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