THE BOOKER DECISION AND DISCRIMINATION IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL SENTENCES

Authors

  • ANDREW W. NUTTING

    1. Nutting: Department of Business, University of Idaho, 308 Albertson Building, Moscow, ID 83844. Phone 208-885-6204, Fax 208-885-5347, E-mail anutting@uidaho.edu
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    • The author wishes to thank seminar participants at the University of Idaho and Washington State University and anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts. He also wishes to thank Jessica Murphy Manca and Melissa Reimer for information regarding the federal sentencing system. All remaining errors are his own.


Abstract

I test how federal criminal sentences changed after the Supreme Court decision U.S. v. Booker changed the sentencing guidelines from “mandatory” to “advisory.” Conditional on final guideline cell, results show Booker significantly reduced sentences, especially for women and defendants with a terminal high school degree, but less so for college graduates. This suggests discrimination among federal judges. When accounting for judges' control over final offense level, evidence regarding high school graduates and college graduates is unchanged, but evidence that sentences fell for women and the default group weakens substantially. This latter result suggests, perhaps, a new methodology by which judges applied offense levels and guideline-conditional sentences post-Booker.

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