Reluctant to embrace innocence: an experimental test of persevering culpability judgments on people’s willingness to support reintegration services for exonerees

  • Kyle C. Scherr
  • Christopher J. Normile
  • Maria Camila Sarmiento



People are hesitant to fully support reintegration efforts (e.g., opportunities to receive psychological counseling, career counseling, job training, housing assistance, educational opportunities, financial compensation) to help exonerees wrongfully convicted of a crime. However, underlying reasons motivating people’s hesitancy remain unaddressed. This research examined the influence of being wrongfully convicted of a race stereotypic-consistent crime on people’s judgments of exonerees’ culpability and willingness to support reintegration programs.


Using an experimental design, participants were randomly assigned to read a news story that depicted an African-American or White male who was exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of assault or embezzlement. Participants then offered their culpability judgments (i.e., their belief in the exoneree’s guilt and confidence in that belief) and willingness to support reintegration services.


Participants were less confident of the exoneree’s innocence and less supportive of psychological counseling services when the exoneree was a White, compared to African-American, male wrongfully convicted of the race stereotypic-consistent crime of embezzlement. An exploratory conditional mediation analysis indicated that less confidence in the exoneree’s innocence after being wrongfully convicted of a race stereotypic-consistent crime was, in turn, associated with people’s hesitancy to support psychological counseling for the exoneree.


Basic and applied implications to overcome people’s hesitancy to support reintegration efforts for exonerees are discussed.


Wrongful convictions Belief perseverance Stereotypes 



This research was supported by a grant from from (DOI: 10.18258/5182).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyle C. Scherr
    • 1
  • Christopher J. Normile
    • 1
  • Maria Camila Sarmiento
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCentral Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA

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