Variation in trial penalties among serious violent offenses

Jeffery T. Ulmer, Mindy S. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


We examine the differences in the sentencing of those who plead guilty and those convicted by jury trial among defendants convicted of serious violent offenses. Drawing from a focal concerns and court communities perspective on court decision making, we develop several hypotheses about jury trial penalties for serious violent offenders, and how such penalties may vary by offense characteristics, defendant characteristics, and court contexts. Our hierarchical models using Pennsylvania sentencing data from 1997 to 2000 reveal that defendants are substantially penalized if they exercise their right to a jury trial and then lose. Furthermore, this jury trial penalty is not evenly assessed, but depends on the seriousness and type of offense, defendant criminal history, and court contextual characteristics such as caseload, court community size, local violent crime rates, and the size of local black populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-670
Number of pages40
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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