In the penalty-phase of a capital case, defense attorneys face a difficult task in managing the identity of their now convicted client. They must present a coherent narrative that combats the prosecution’s case and engenders leniency from the jury. The closing argument given by the defense attorney(s) provides a unique opportunity to analyze and understand the general use of stigma management techniques and their applicability to capital cases. Using content analysis, 18 Transcripts from Texas capital cases from 2005 to 2015 were analyzed against the relevant techniques of neutralization (Sykes & Matza, 1957): appeal to a higher loyalty, appeal to good character, denial of responsibility, and an emergent theme of personal and moral judgment. The results highlight a reliance on all four techniques, with nuanced variations in the way each was used. Furthermore, this research provides a descriptive analysis of the practical significance of techniques used to construct their closing arguments in capital cases.
Lisa Bell Holleran
Date of Degree
Master of Science (MS)
Sociology and Corrections
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Abdul-Aziz, A. (2021). Standing between the past and the future, how defense attorneys use stigma management techniques in presenting their closing arguments in capital sentencing procedures: A content analysis [Master’s thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/1156/
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