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Normalization in the courtroom: Does the formation of a group norm affect how judges adjust prosecutors' demands?



Legal archives concerning a new type of offence first introduced onto the French statute books in 2005 reveal a normalization effect over the following 2 years in judges' sentence decisions but not in prosecutors' sentence demands. We examine the hypothesis that the formation of a normally accepted range of sentences will influence how judges respond to the extremity of the prosecutor's initial sentence demand. In line with a normalization perspective, results reveal that judges were less influenced by extreme (out-of-range) sentence demands but more influenced by moderate (in-range) sentences in 2007 than in 2005. Over time, it seems that a shared standard of reference is established, which appears to lead judges to adjust moderate prosecutor demands less and extreme prosecutor demands more. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.