Judicial Scarring

24 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2023

Date Written: February 6, 2023


I document that experienced decision makers can be influenced by irrelevant events in a high stakes setting, felony sentencing in Cook County. Using a stacked difference-in-differences design, I estimate that judges hand down sentences that are 13% longer after sentencing a first degree murder. The effect is twice as large for defendants who resemble the murderer along the dimensions of race and charge severity. The bias affects 6% of defendants on an ongoing basis and temporarily increases the Black sentencing penalty by 91%.

Keywords: Anchoring, Behavioral Bias, Judges, Salience, Sentencing, Sequential Decisions

JEL Classification: D91, J15, K14

Suggested Citation

Srinivasan, Karthik, Judicial Scarring (February 6, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4350411 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4350411

Karthik Srinivasan (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

5807 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
4045562887 (Phone)

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