Juror Sentiment on Just Punishment: Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Reflect Community Values?

Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 4, pp. 173-200, 2010

28 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2010  

James Gwin

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: February 20, 2010

Abstract

Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines reflect community sentiment regarding appropriate punishment? This paper describes a study where juries were surveyed after they had given guilty verdicts. The author then compared the jurors' recommendations with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines recommended sentence. Combining 22 cases of various types, the median juror recommended sentence was only 19% of the median Guidelines ranges and only 36% of the bottom of the Guidelines ranges.

The author argues that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines correctly emphasized retribution as the most important sentencing purpose. If retributive considerations should dominate, the author says the ranges chosen should align with community sentiment. Although the study is limited, it suggests the current Guidelines values do not. The author recommends juror questionnaires as an easy facility to better guage community sentiment without diminishing the Guidelines desire to reduce sentencing disparities.

Keywords: Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Sentencing, Sentencing, Guidelines, Retribution

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Gwin, James, Juror Sentiment on Just Punishment: Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Reflect Community Values? (February 20, 2010). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 4, pp. 173-200, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1556347

James Gwin (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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