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December 22, 2008

Interesting examination of sentencing in child homicide cases

Especially given that the media coverage of one apparent child homicide seems never-ending, this new paper on SSRN ought to be of interest to both sentencing fans and social scientists. The paper is titled, "Sympathy for the Devil? Child Homicide, Victim Characteristics, and the Sentencing Preferences of the American Conscience," and here is the abstract:

The act of killing a child holds the distinction of attracting a deluge of attention in the media but a relative drip of sociological literature.  This thesis deconstructs American views of child homicide and conducts the first experimental test of the effects of victim characteristics like age on sentencing recommendations in four different homicide scenarios: accidental, drunken, impulsive, and premeditated.  The findings illuminate the link between social norms and sentencing severity. Ultimately, three conclusions may be drawn: first, child sympathy does not appear to vary by the respondent's demographic traits; second, child killers are sentenced more harshly than the killers of adults, but only when criminal intent is evident; and third, while there is a positive relationship between youth of the victim and the severity of punishment assigned to the offender, the effects for child and teen homicide are not so dissimilar as to contradict existing legal statutes in the United States.

December 22, 2008 at 02:52 PM | Permalink

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