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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200173 Find in a Library
Title: Life Terms or Death Sentences: The Uneasy Relationship Between Judicial Elections and Capital Punishment
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:92  Issue:3/4  Dated:Spring/Summer 2002  Pages:609-640
Author(s): Richard R. W. Brooks; Steven Raphael
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 32
Type: Historical Overview; Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In order to assess whether judicial discretion impacts the likelihood of convictions and ultimate sentencing outcomes, this study used detailed historical data on murders that occurred in Chicago during the period 1870-1930.
Abstract: These data include incident-level detail on various aspects of murder cases, including information on trial disposition of arrested defendants and the name of the trial judge hearing the case. The study performed a one-way analysis of variance of several trial and sentencing outcomes in an attempt to identify statistically whether judge-specific effects are important in sentencing. This aspect of the study concluded that there is strong, unambiguous evidence that the judge trying the case is a statistically significant predictor of the likelihood of a conviction and of the likelihood of receiving a death sentence conditional on a conviction. The second empirical strategy tested for the impact of having the homicide trials occur during a judicial election period. The defendants in the sample studied were found to be approximately 15 percent more likely to be sentenced to death when the sentence was issued during the trial judge's election year. During the period of this study, the electoral incentives for trial judges might have encouraged them to facilitate a death sentence, only to later privately request clemency for the defendant from the governor. Through private communications with the governor, trial judges were often the most influential voice in advocating or challenging the worthiness of the defendant's request for clemency. 4 tables and 43 notes
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Comparative analysis; Illinois; Judicial discretion; Judicial elections; Political influences; Sentencing disparity
Note: For other documents related to this study, see NCJ-200171-72 and NCJ-200174-82.
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