Academic report

The Death Penalty: Should the Judge or the Jury Decide Who Dies?

By John H. Blume / Theodore Eisenberg / Sheri Lynn Johnson / Cornell Law Review / Martin T. Wells / Valerie P. Hans / Amelia Courtney Hritz / Caisa E. Royer, on 1 January 2014

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.

  • Document type Academic report
  • Themes list Statistics, Country/Regional profiles,