Original article in Korean is at this link.
A drunk man in his 50s stole into a 6-year old girl’s bedroom, then abducted and sexually assaulted her. Another man stabbed his wife to death after an argument. If you, rather than the judge, chose the punishment, what would you choose?
Five years after the start of the citizen jury system, a study has found that juries give sex offenders sentences that average eight months longer than those of judges. Jurors also do not reduce sentences for those who commit crimes while intoxicated, unlike judges. When deciding guilt and innocence, they tend to demand clearer evidence than do judges. The research team studied 546 cases tried before juries in the past five years, involving 569 victims and 4,282 jurors, and compared their behavior to judges.
The study found that jurors in sex crime cases gave average prison sentences of 68.1 months compared to the average 59.9 given by judges, an 8-month gap. In the other major crimes of murder, assault, and robbery, jury sentences were just 1 to 2 months longer. It appears that citizens want to punish sex crimes more harshly than does the judiciary.
Further, the research team led by Kyonggi University Professor Lee Su-jeong (criminal psychology) studied the factors influencing judges’ and juries’ sentences, finding that jurors took little heed of intoxication as a mitigating factor when setting sentences. Prof. Lee said that “some citizens see the traditional attitude towards intoxication in the judiciary to be excessively lenient.”
However, in other major crimes such as murder and assault, juries gave harsher sentences than judges in only roughly 1 out of 10 (10.%) of cases. They gave shorter sentences in 17.6% of cases, and gave identical sentences in 72.1% of cases.
Jurors also seek more solid evidence when deciding guilt and innocence. In the 9.3% (51) cases where judges and juries reached different conclusions about guilt and innocence, 47 involved juries who wanted to acquit and judges who wanted to convict, versus just 4 cases of the reverse. The largest reason, cited in 47.1% of the cases, was lack of evidence. Lee Sang-won, an attorney who began his career as a judge, said that “judges have seen so many criminals that they start to see everybody as guilty, but juries don’t experience in issuing judgments, so they look at the defendant sympathetically and that is the basis for them seeking a just verdict.”