Judges and juries both across the United States and in other countries who decide that a crime is “depraved,” “heinous,” or “horrible” can assign more severe sentences. Yet there is no standardized definition for such dramatic words that courts already use. And while we may all recognize that some crimes truly separate themselves from others, there is no standard, fair way to distinguish crimes that are the worst of the worst, or “evil.” To minimize the arbitrariness of how courts determine the worst of crimes, and to eliminate bias in sentencing, the Depravity Standard research aims to establish societal standards of what makes a crime depraved, and to develop a standardized instrument based on specific characteristics of a crime that must be proven in order to merit more severe sentences.
This research will refine into the Depravity Standard, an objective measure based on forensic evidence. This instrument distinguishes not who is depraved but rather, what aspects of a given crime are depraved and the degree of a specific crime's depravity. The research will enhance fairness in sentencing, given that it is race, gender and socio-economic blind.