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KDI Journal of Economic Policy

KDI Journal of Economic Policy, August 2017

Anchoring Effect of the Prosecutor’s Demand on Sentence: Evidence from Korean Sexual Crime Cases

SUMMARY The anchoring effect can be found when a decision shows cognitive prejudice towards the initial information given. Several studies have argued that such an effect is present even for judges in the courtroom. This paper seeks to find a relationship between judges’ decisions on penalty sentences and the sentences recommended by prosecutors. In this study, 2,773 actual court cases are considered in the analysis, and quantile regression is used to show that the sentencing decisions judges make are anchored by the recommendations of prosecutors. However, this reliance on recommendations differs according to the seriousness of the crime committed. Specifically, at the lowest penalty levels, a one-month increase in the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation results in a 0.25-month increase in the judges’ sentence, while at the highest sentence level, the judges’ sentences increase by 0.78 months under an identical condition. The results of this research indicate the need to create more objective and clear sentencing guidelines in the future in an effort to mitigate the psychological pressure experienced by judges with regard to serious offences or heinous crimes.
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