Does Process Matter in Military Sentencing? A Study of the Trial Penalty in Air Force Courts-Martial
Johnson, Brian D.
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Prior sentencing research has largely ignored the military justice system even though over two million people are subject to its jurisdiction. Studying the military justice system advances knowledge of the military population and offers an opportunity to explore criminal justice issues and theoretical perspectives in a different legal system that includes jury sentencing. The present study applies organizational efficiency, uncertainty avoidance, and court community perspectives to investigate whether military offenders who assert their Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial are penalized with harsher sentences than offenders who plead guilty. Using Air Force court-martial data from 2005 and 2006, the results of the study found no support for a trial penalty effect and also found that juries are less likely to impose severe types of punishment compared to judges. The study offers possible explanations for these findings and discusses implications for public policy, theory, and the direction for future research.