Yes, I did it, but don't blame me: Perceptions of excuse defenses

Wendy P. Heath, Jeff Stone, John M. Darley, Bruce D. Grannemann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


According to some, it is increasingly common for defendants to admit they committed an offense but to argue that they shouldn't be held legally responsible because they have an excuse. The present study was conducted to investigate views of excuse defenses. Forty-three participants rated 15 different excuse defenses (e.g., steroid use) on a number of characteristics (e.g., persuasiveness of defense). Participants also indicated whether they would be willing to change an assigned sentence (increase or decrease sentence, recommend treatment or probation) in the presence of each excuse defense. Ratings revealed that excuses vary in persuasiveness, with the persuasiveness of an excuse associated with the defendant's perceived amount of responsibility for the act and control over the criminal act and excusing condition. Defendants providing excuses seen as more persuasive tended to receive shorter sentences and more treatment recommendations. Possible factors influencing judgments are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-226
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Psychiatry and Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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