Jury Sentencing in Noncapital Cases: A Case Study of El Paso County, Texas
Critics of jury sentencing in noncapital cases complain that jurors are less competent or qualified than judges to decide questions about probation or incarceration. Thus far, however, views on jury sentencing in noncapital cases have rested largely on speculation, not on empirical evidence. Professor Weninger attempts to bring some hard data to the discussion with a survey of 1,395 noncapital felony prosecutions commenced in the district courts during a 4-year period in El Paso County. The survey reveals that juries imposed longer and more variable prison terms than judges. Regression analysis predicted differences between the average lengths of sentences imposed for certain offenses. These differences, running in the direction of longer sentences by juries, increased with the seriousness of the offense.