Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level



Sociology and Criminology


Jeff Gruenewald

Committee Member

Casey Taggart Harris

Second Committee Member

Kayla Allison


Attribution Theory, Biased Crime, Bounded Rationality, Focal Concerns Theory, Hate Crime, Open-source


While most states in America have passed laws permitting harsher punishments for those convicted of hate (or bias) crimes, there has been no research to date on the adjudication of these defendants, including how legal and extralegal attributes of bias crime shape prosecutorial and judicial decision-making. This gap in research is likely due in part to the limitations of official data on bias crimes. Fortunately, new data on legal outcomes for bias homicide offenders who target victims because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or homed status have become available from the open-source database known as the Bias Homicide Database (BHDB). Drawing from the BHDB and theoretical perspectives on court-actor decision-making, the current study quantitatively investigates the relationships between victim attributes and the severity of case dispositions in bias-motivated homicide cases. Findings suggest that victim attributes are significantly related to justice outcomes. This study sheds light on how bias crime defendants are adjudicated in American courts with implications for broader debates regarding the social value and legal utility of enhanced punishments for those convicted of crimes targeting persons because of their social group.