The new issue of the Alabama Law Review has an article reporting the results of a survey of federal district judges about allocution in sentencing:
Mark W. Bennett & Ira P. Robbins, Last Words: A Survey and Analysis of Federal Judges' Views on Allocution in Sentencing, 65 Ala. L. Rev. 735 (2014)
Allocution—the penultimate stage of a criminal proceeding at which the judge affords defendants an opportunity to speak their last words before sentencing—is a centuries-old right in criminal cases, and academics have theorized about the various purposes it serves. But what do sitting federal judges think about allocution? Do they actually use it to raise or lower sentences? Do they think it serves purposes above and beyond sentencing? Are there certain factors that judges like or dislike in allocutions? These questions—and many others—are answered directly in this first-ever study of judges’ views and practices regarding allocution.
The authors surveyed all federal district judges in the United States. This Article provides a summary and analysis of the participants’ responses. Patterns both expected and unexpected emerged, including, perhaps most surprisingly, that allocution does not typically have a large influence on defendants’ final sentences. Most of the judges agreed, however, that retaining this often-overlooked procedural right remains an
important feature of the criminal-justice process.