SAGE Journal Articles

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Journal Article 1: Buckler, K. G. (2014). The newsworthiness of U.S. Supreme Court Criminal Procedure Cases (1994–2010 terms): Assessing the effects of case salience and case complexity across elite and populace press. Criminal Justice Review, 39, 140–159.

Abstract: This study examines elite (New York Times and Washington Post) and populace (USA Today) media decisions to cover and to intensively cover U.S. Supreme Court outcomes in criminal procedure cases decided in the 1994 through 2010 terms. Two central constructs—case salience and decisional case complexity—are developed as a framework within which to understand media decisions. Case salience is conceptualized both in terms of contextual case salience (measured as the number of amicus curiae briefs filed on the merits) and issue-based case salience (cases that concern the fourth and eighth amendments). Decisional case complexity is measured as the number of unique majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions published as part of the case decision. The study utilizes measures from the U.S. Supreme Court Database developed by Harold Spaeth, supplemented with primary data collection of media articles and amicus curiae briefs. The study finds that case salience measures are the most powerful predictor variables for the decision to publish in both elite and populace press. Case salience measures are also the most dominant set of variables in explaining overall intensity of coverage in populace press. Decisional case complexity is the most important explanatory predictor of overall intensity of coverage in elite press. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Journal Article 2: Spohn, C., & Sample, L. L. (2008). The dangerous drug offender in federal court: Intersections of race, ethnicity, and culpability. Crime & Delinquency.

Abstract: This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender’s race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender’s race or ethnicity.