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

31 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2014 Last revised: 12 Feb 2015

Valerie P. Hans

Cornell University - School of Law

John H. Blume

Cornell Law School

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased)

Amelia Courtney Hritz

Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Law, Psychology and Human Development Program, Students

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School

Caisa E. Royer

Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Law, Psychology and Human Development Program, Students

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 1, 2014

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.

Suggested Citation

Hans, Valerie P. and Blume, John H. and Eisenberg, Theodore and Hritz, Amelia Courtney and Johnson, Sheri Lynn and Royer, Caisa E. and Wells, Martin T., The Death Penalty: Should the Judge or the Jury Decide Who Dies? (October 1, 2014). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2513371 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2513371

Valerie P. Hans (Contact Author)

Cornell University - School of Law ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-0095 (Phone)

John H. Blume

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Theodore Eisenberg

Cornell University, Law School (Deceased) ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

Amelia Courtney Hritz

Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Law, Psychology and Human Development Program, Students ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Sheri Lynn Johnson

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-6478 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

Caisa E. Royer

Cornell University, College of Human Ecology, Law, Psychology and Human Development Program, Students ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Martin T. Wells

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Comstock Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-8801 (Phone)

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