Who’s the Fairest in the Land? Analysis of Judge and Jury Death Penalty Decisions
The fairness of the application of the death penalty has come under question in recent years, amid the growing number of minority death row inmates. In this study, the Supreme Court decision Ring v. Arizona, which changed the death penalty sentencing phase in 13 states, is used to identify the different case and defendant characteristics that affect the decision to apply the death penalty. Using data that link homicide incidents to defendant trial outcomes in states with the death penalty, estimates suggest that juries both are more likely to apply the death penalty than judges and are more influenced by the age and race of the victim and the offender. These results raise concerns over the recent shift from judicial- to jury-based sentencing in capital cases.
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