Mental health in the courtroom: how victim mental health status impacts juror decision-making in a rape case

Mary M. Levi, Jonathan M. Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study aimed to investigate the effect of victim mental illness on legal decision-making in a rape trial using a 3 (victim mental health status: schizophrenia, depression, no illness) x 2 (participant gender: female, male) between-subjects design. Participants (N = 270) read a rape trial summary in which the victim’s mental illness was manipulated. They were then asked to render a verdict and answer questions about their perceptions of the victim and defendant. The results indicated that participants were more pro-victim in the control and depression conditions compared to the schizophrenia condition. It was also found that victim mental health status indirectly affected verdict through perceptions of victim credibility, victim sympathy, and victim mental health severity. Female participants were also found to be more pro-victim than male participants. Lastly, the cognitive network models demonstrated that victim mental health status was a primary factor in participant decision-making in the schizophrenia condition for not-guilty verdicts. The results demonstrate that mock juror perceptions and decision-making were impacted more so by the type of victim mental illness, rather than the presence of a psychological disorder alone. Implications are discussed in terms of reducing stigmatizing attitudes towards those with mental illness in court.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • depression
  • jury decision-making
  • Rape
  • schizophrenia
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • General Psychology
  • Law


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