Download This Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Origins of Felony Jury Sentencing in the United States

59 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2003  

Nancy J. King

Vanderbilt University - Law School


This article traces the development of jury sentencing in non-capital felony cases in Virginia and Kentucky, as well as the rejection of jury sentencing in Pennsylvania, in the late 18th Century. Several of the explanations that modern commentators on jury sentencing have offered for the adoption of jury sentencing are questioned. In Virginia, where party politics may have affected the choice of jury over judge, pockets of judicial sentencing power remained, inconsistent with a strong preference for the democratic judgment of a jury in punishment over the professional decisions of the judiciary. Kentucky's experience suggests that settlement patterns and legal heritage, as well as distrust of judges, were prime determinants of that state's sentencing policy. An appendix listing early sentencing law for several states is included.

Keywords: jury sentencing

Suggested Citation

King, Nancy J., The Origins of Felony Jury Sentencing in the United States. Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 74, 2003. Available at SSRN: or

Nancy J. King (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
(615) 343-9836 (Phone)
(615) 322-6631 (Fax)

Paper statistics

Abstract Views