Defining Evil: An Interview With Dr. Michael Welner

The surveys we are conducting at are trying to determine where we can generally agree, which features of a crime are truly heinous. And, when those features are present how much relative weight should they have on sentencing. Even if we agree that, for example, "intent to terrorize" is an element of depravity that a jury should consider, should it carry greater weight in classifying a crime than "targeting a helpless victim?"

The Depravity Standard needs to be that refined, because believe it or not, many crimes include elements of depravity. Jurors and judges will ultimately use the Depravity Standard as a guide to a threshold of when a crime features carry a statistical weight of highly depraved, moderately depraved, or minimally depraved. So the online research surveys need to include as many from the general public as possible in order to accurately establish a societal measure for which features warrant heavier or lighter weight in a determination of depravity.

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