Disparity in Homicide Sentencing

Kathleen Auerhahn, Temple University
Monica E. Williams, Temple University

A vast literature details inequities and extralegal disparities in criminal sentencing in the United States. Surprisingly, very little is known about whether such disparity exists in the sentencing of homicide cases. What research exists to address this question tends to focus on only a limnited subset of homicide cases, such as capital murder and intimate partner homicide, leaving unanswered the question of whether or not sentencing disparities exist generally among individuals convicted of this serious crime. On the one hand, it might be expected that disparities would be minimized relative to other crime types, owing to the greater seriousness of homicide; however, the specialized literatures have found evidence of patterned disparity arising from gender, racial, and victimn-offender relationship characteristics. The present research seeks to describe the nature and extent of disparities in a general sample of homicide defendants. Preliminary descriptive findings from a multi-city analysis of homicide sentences are presented.

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Updated 05/20/2006