CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hans et al. on Judges, Juries, and the Death Penalty

Valerie P. Hans John H. Blume Theodore Eisenberg Amelia Courtney Hritz Sheri Lynn Johnson Caisa E. Royer and Martin T. Wells (Cornell University - School of Law , Cornell Law School , Cornell University - Law School , Cornell University , Cornell Law School , Cornell University and Cornell University - School of Law) have posted The Death Penalty: Should the Judge or the Jury Decide Who Dies? on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

This article addresses the effect of judge versus jury decision making through analysis of a database of all capital sentencing phase hearing trials in the state of Delaware from 1977-2007. Over the three decades of the study, Delaware shifted responsibility for death penalty sentencing from the jury to the judge. Currently, Delaware is one of the handful of states that gives the judge the final decision making authority in capital trials. Controlling for a number of legally-relevant and other predictor variables, we find that the shift to judge sentencing significantly increased the number of death sentences. Statutory aggravating factors, stranger homicides, and the victim’s gender also increased the likelihood of a death sentence, as did the county of the homicide. We reflect on the implications of these results for debates about the constitutionality of judge sentencing in capital cases.

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