Death Penalty Racism

According to the New York Times,

Blacks who kill whites are significantly more likely to face the death penalty in Maryland than are blacks who kill blacks or white killers, according to a state-sponsored study released yesterday. By itself, the study found, the race of the defendant was essentially irrelevant.

[…]The report found that two counties with the highest death sentencing rates, Baltimore and Harford, were also the two counties with the highest rates of capital homicides involving white victims and black killers.

The report also found that choices made by prosecutors about whom to charge with a capital crime accounted for almost all of the racial disparity. Later decisions by prosecutors, judges and juries had little impact.

[…]Maryland has executed three men since capital punishment was re-established there in 1978. Eight of the 13 men on death row today are black, according to the study. All 13 were sentenced to death for killing whites, it said, though 55 percent of the victims in all cases in which the death penalty was or could have been sought were not white.

I can’t say I am surprised, though I would like a national study attempt to isolate the effect of the race of the victim.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

10 thoughts on “Death Penalty Racism”

  1. I think that it is wrong that black people have a greater chance at facing the death penalty then white people. I agree with you.

  2. I think that it’s wrong that blacks have a greater chance to get the death penalty then whites. just because they have a different skin color does not make what they did any different!!!!!!!

  3. Well….let’s look at the numbers before you start saying the death penalty is racist. What it is the percentage of crimes committed by minorities. What are the numbers of criminals therefore that are of minority background? Ah ha – a disportionate amount. Exactly. More minorities commit crimes. Therefore, why do you not find it normal that a disportionate number of minorities face the death penalty. Wake up. The death penalty is good for everyone. It just doesn’t come around enough

  4. George: You didn’t read my post or the study which was reported. Read it and you’ll realize that you didn’t say anything relevant.

  5. RACE: A Death Penalty Primer – No Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing
    Dudley Sharp,  Justice Matters
    contact info below

    7 studies are reviewed, herein

    For emphasis, population count is totally irrelevant, regarding any consideration of class or race/ethnicity bias in the application of the death penalty. The only relevant factors in such a review are class, race/ethnic distribution of murderers and their victims in capital murders, as well as criminal history, the specific circumstances of the crime(s) and a review of  individual prosecutorial jurisdictions.

    Study 1: Drs. Stephen Klein and John Rolph

    “After accounting for some of the many factors that may influence penalty decisions, neither race of the defendant nor race of the victim appreciably improved prediction of who was sentenced to death … “.

    “Relationship of Offender and Victim Race to Death Penalty Sentences in California”(Jurimetrics Journal, 32, Fall 1991, aka The Rand Corporation Study)

    Study 2:  Smith College Professors Stanley Rothman and Stephen Powers found that legal variables, such as prior criminal history and the aggravated nature of the murder, are the proven basis for imposition of the death penalty. The black/white variation in sentencing has generally been reduced to zero when such legal variables are introduced as controls.

    “Execution by Quota?”, The Public Interest, Summer 1994

    Study 3: NO BIAS IN DEATH SENTENCING:   U of Maryland’s Death Penalty Study (1)

    The following are direct quotes from the Executive Summary of the U of Maryland study.

    Race of the victim

    “The race of the victim effect does not hold up, however, at the decision of the state’s attorney to advance a case to penalty trial and at the decision of the judge or jury to impose a death sentence given that a penalty trial has occurred.” p 27

    In other words, the victim’s race has no impact on seeking or
    giving death sentences.

    “The race of the victim does not appear to matter when the decision is to advance a case to the penalty phase or to sentence a defendant to death after a penalty phase
    hearing.” page 29

    In other words, the victim’s race has no impact on seeking or
    giving death sentences

    “Among the subset of cases where the case actually does reach a penalty trial, the victim’s race does not have a significant impact on the imposition of a death sentence.” page 35

    In fact, the study fails to demonstrate that there is any race of the victim effect in death sentencing in Maryland.

    “When the prosecuting jurisdiction is added to the model the effect for the victims race diminishes substantially, and is no longer statistically significant.” page 32

    In other words, when you look at the capital murder cases, from each, separate jurisdiction, individually, any alleged race of the victim effect cannot be found.

    ” … any attempt to deal with any racial disparity in the imposition of the death penalty in Maryland cannot ignore the substantial variability that exists in different state’s attorney’s offices in the processing of death cases.” p 34

    In other words, it is important to look at how each jurisdiction handles their capital cases, because each jurisdiction is different. And when that is done, no bias in death sentencing is found.

    Race of victim and defendant

    “There is no race of the offender / victim effect at either the decision to advance a case to penalty hearing or the decision to sentence a defendant to death
    given a penalty hearing.” page 30

    In other words, neither the race of the defendant nor the race of the victim have an impact on seeking or giving death sentences.

    Race of the defendant

    ” … there is no evidence that the race of the defendant matters at any stage once case characteristics are controlled for.” page 26

    ” … we found no evidence that the race of the defendant matters in processing of capital cases in the state.” p 26

    In other words, Maryland is not looking at race, but is concentrating on the nature of the murders.

    (1) Executive Summary:
    An Empirical Analysis of Maryland’s Death Sentencing System with Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction, www(DOT)urhome.umd.edu/newsdesk/pdf/exec.pdf

    Study 4: No Racial Bias in the New Jersey Death Penalty System

    New Jersey
    For release: February 11, 2003
    For further information contact
    Winnie Comfort, AOC
    (609) 292-9580
    Report on Proportionality Released

    Trenton, N.J.

    The 2002 report essentially mirrors the findings contained in the 2001 report, and may be summarized as follows:

    —There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that the race of the defendant affects which cases advance to penalty trial. Although bivariate analysis reveals that a greater proportion of death-eligible white defendants than African-American defendants advance to the penalty phase, that finding is not supported by regression studies and application of case-sorting techniques. There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that the race of the defendant affects which cases result in imposition of the death penalty. Again, although bivariate analysis reveals that a greater proportion of death-eligible white defendants are sentenced to death than African-American defendants, that finding is not supported by regression studies and application of case-sorting techniques.
    —There is statistically significant evidence that white victim cases are more likely than African-American victim cases to advance to penalty trial, but that finding is eradicated when county variability is taken into account. A disproportionate number of minority victim cases are tried in counties with the lowest overall rates of progression to penalty trial, while less urban counties with a high concentration of white victim cases have higher rates of capital prosecutions. Although Judge Baime notes that county variability may itself be a problem, he offers no opinion on the subject because that issue is well beyond the contours of his report.
    —There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that white victim cases are more likely than minority victim cases to result in imposition of the death penalty

    The New Jersey Supreme Court has accepted the 2002 annual report prepared by Judge David S. Baime, a retired Appellate Division judge, on the monitoring of proportionality review in capital punishment cases in New Jersey. The Supreme Court adopted a monitoring system in 2000 to determine whether racial discrimination played a role in the administration of New Jersey’s capital cases.

    In his capacity as a “special master,” a role that requires extrajudicial expertise and work with court-appointed experts, Judge Baime prepared the “Report to the New Jersey Supreme Court: Systemic Proportionality Review Project 2001-2002 Term.” .

    Judge Baime was assisted by statistical analysts David Weisburd, a professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The University of Maryland, College Park, and Joseph Naus, a professor at Rutgers University. In an effort to provide the most accurate analysis possible, the monitoring system approved by the Court consists of three different statistical strategies: bivariate analyses, regression studies and case-sorting techniques. In order to establish systemic disproportionality, a defendant must relentlessly document the risk of racial disparity. This requires that the outcomes produced by the three modes of analysis substantially converge, or lead to the conclusion that racial discrimination plays a part in capital sentencing.

    The three modes of analysis were applied to three separate decision points: death outcomes at penalty trials, death outcomes among all death-eligible cases, as determined by Judge Baime and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and advancement of death-eligible cases to penalty trials. Three identifiable groups—African-Americans, whites and Hispanics—were examined, and possible disparities in terms of the race or ethnicity of the defendant and the race or ethnicity of the victim were considered.

    Study 5:   Pro & Con: The Death Penalty in Black and White
    by Dudley Sharp
    Thursday, June 24, 1999
    IntellectualCapital.com,  6/24/99.
    stored at http://www.prodeathpenalty.com/racism.htm

    I don’t know about you, but when I get into a discussion about the death penalty, my first thoughts go to the victim and to the brutality of the murder. That is the foundation of the just nature of the death penalty.

    Too often these days, however the death penalty is discussed in different terms. Inevitably, with the racial history of this country, the effect of race in the application of the death penalty has become a central part of the death-penalty discourse. This is particularly true as some politicians are making the case for a death-penalty moratorium, in part to consider whether the death penalty is inherently racist.

    All too often, however, those arguments are spurious. In the death penalty debate, it should be the facts, and not the hype, that are in be black and white.

    A closer look at the statistics

    Often such discussion begins with the obvious: the race of the defendant. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports that black murderers represent 35% of those executed, white murderers 56%. As the argument goes, this must be evidence of systemic racism, as blacks represent 12% of the population, whites 74%.

    Fortunately, the United States does not execute people based on their population counts but on the murders they commit. As blacks represent 47% of murderers and whites 37%, we see that whites are twice as likely to be executed for committing murder as are their black counterparts.

    Furthermore, the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that whites sentenced to death are executed 17 months more quickly than blacks. With 98% of all head prosecutors in the United States being white, according to DPIC, how is such a result possible? Maybe prosecutors, judges and juries are focusing on the crimes and not the race of the defendant.

    That is not the case, say anti-death penalty groups, such as Amnesty International, and now the United Nations. If you adjust for the specific aggravating factors present within capital crimes, you find clear evidence of racism.

    Death-penalty opponents note, for example, that the Supreme Court, in the famous race-based challenge to the death penalty (McCleskey v. Kemp), found in 1987 that those who murderer whites were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murder blacks, under similar circumstances.

    David Baldus, who did the statistical study on McCleskey’s behalf, also completed a recent study in Philadelphia where it is was reported to show that black murderers were four times more likely to receive a death sentence than white murderers. With such results, how can anyone dispute the racist application of the death penalty?

    Quite easily.

    The Supreme Court, as well as many others, confused odds with multiples. The data reflect odds of 4-to-1, not four times more likely.

    What difference does it make?

    In Baldus’ Philadelphia study, we find that if only 2% more white murderers had been sentenced to death and only 2.5% fewer black murderers had been sentenced to death, then each group would have been sentenced to death by juries at the same rate — a far cry from the 400% differential stated within the incorrect interpretation of “four times”!

    A punishment that fits the crimes

    The next issue raised is the victim’s race. While blacks and whites comprise about an equal number of murder victims, the ratio of white-to-black victims in death-penalty cases is about 7-to-1. This has given rise to the allegation that the “system” only cares about white murder victims. A horrible accusation, if true.

    However, the ratio of white-to-black victims in the aggravated circumstances necessary for a capital murder conviction (rape, robbery, car-jacking, burglary, police murders, serial/multiple murders, etc.) is from 4-to-1 to 8-to-1 — numbers consistent with the victim ratios on death row.

    The final resting place for the racism charge lies within those cases where blacks have been executed for murdering whites and whites have been executed for murdering blacks. There have been 144 blacks and 10 whites executed under such circumstances, or a ratio of 14-to-1. As blacks are about 2.5 times more likely to murder whites than the other way around, there appears to be a huge disparity in such executions. Is racism the reason?

    If we look at robbery, the aggravated crime found most often in capital cases, we find that when there is a robbery with injury, the ratio of black robber/white victims versus white robbers/black victims is 21-to-1.

    Again, when looking at the circumstances consistent with capital crimes, we find no evidence of racial bias.

    The determining factor for sentencing in death-penalty cases is what it should be — the aggravating nature of the crimes. Both the Rand Corp. study of 1991 and the research presented by Smith College professors Stanley Rothman and Stephen Powers in 1994 confirm that finding. In other words, it appears that any racial variations present within the data are reflective of the crimes themselves and not racial bias within the system. A review of those studies, as well as of criminal-justice statistics, within the context of the aggravating circumstances present within capital murders and the related statutes, produces the same conclusion.

    Don’t assume the worst motives

    There will always be some variables of race, ethnicity and class within any study of criminal-justice practices, and based on historic, as well as current prejudices, we can never lower our guard. Because all studies are subject to poor protocols, bias and misinterpretation, we must make reasoned judgments based on as many respected considerations as we may have at our disposal.

    And even if criminal-justice statistics did not show the obvious correlation between crimes and the application of the death penalty, we should note what the Supreme Court stated in McCleskey: “Where the discretion that is fundamental to our criminal justice process is involved, we decline to assume that what is unexplained [by measured factors] is invidious.” Sound ideas should not be eliminated based on misguided statistics.

    In the case of the death penalty, the facts lead to only one conclusion. No moratorium is necessary.

    Study 6: Death Penalty Opponents Distortions are the Real Story

    “To properly protect the people in Baltimore City and other jurisdictions like it, we must restore public confidence in and support of capital punishment, so that prosecutors can seek it in appropriate cases, and jurors will impose it. The first step toward that end is to debunk the myth that capital punishment is imposed discriminatorily. The numbers are there, in the opponents’s own studies, once we cut through the spin and look at the facts.”

    Smoke and Mirrors on Race and the Death Penalty, Kent Scheidegger, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Engage Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 2, 10/2003     www(DOT)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/EngageArticle.pdf

    Study 7:          Full Review Finds no Bias

    “From 1976-1995, 5 white murderers have been put to death for the murder of black persons and 101 black murderers have been put to death for the murder of white persons (NAACP LDF, 1996). Opponents falsely contend that this is evidence of racism in the “system”. That 101:5 ratio, or 20:1, is consistent with  statistics that show aggravated crimes (those crimes committed with the murder which may make a crime eligible for the death penalty) are committed by blacks against whites in far greater numbers than by whites against blacks. For all violent crimes, there are ten times as many black offenders (2,016,939) involved in white victim violent crimes as there are white offenders (210,869) involved in black victim violent crimes, or a 10:1 ratio. (The State of Violent Crime in America, pg. 12,1/96, data derived from Criminal Victimization in the U.S., 1993, BJS forthcoming, tables 42 and 48. Multiple offenders were assumed to be two offenders for calculation purposes.) In addition, blacks are nearly three times as likely to murder whites (849), as whites are to murder blacks (304), or 3:1 (Sourcebook 1994, BJS 1995, table 3.123). IF murder rates are statistically consistent within the violent crime category, as McCleskey et al indicate, then blacks are, statistically, by a 30:1 (10:1 X 3:1) ratio, more likely to murder whites, than whites are to murder blacks, in those circumstances where an additional aggravating factor is present (see C2). These are those crimes most eligible for the death penalty. That statistically projected ratio of 30:1 is hardly inconsistent with the 20:1 ratio for black offender(s)/white victim vs white offender(s)/black victim executions. The most relevant aggravated crime is robbery with injury, wherein blacks are 21 times more likely to be involved in such crimes as are whites. This 21:1 ratio represents 1.4 million black offender(s)/white victim vs. 68,000 white offender(s)/black victim for robbery with injury crimes (JFA, using BJS, 1977-84 data). IF overall murder statistics are consistent, within this crime category, as McCleskey et al suggests, then there is a 30-60:1 ratio of black on white vs white on black murders within this robbery/murder category. (From 1977-1984).”

    Excerpt from “C. RACE, SENTENCING AND THE DEATH PENALTY”, paragraph No. 5., DEATH PENALTY AND SENTENCING INFORMATION In the United States, 10/1/97, by Dudley Sharp,  http://prodeathpenalty.com/DP.html#C.Race

    copyright 1998-2007 Dudley Sharp

    Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
    email sharpjfa@aol.com, phone 713-622-5491
    Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
     
    A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

    Pro death penalty sites 

    homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

    www(dot)dpinfo.com
    www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
    www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
    joshmarquis(dot)blogspot.com/
    www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
    www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
    www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_contents.htm  (Sweden)

    Permission for distribution of this document is approved as long as it is distributed in its entirety, without changes, inclusive of this statement.

  6. the death penalty isn’t racist ya idiots.

    people post this when minorities such as blacks are in death row.

    ITS BECAUSE THEY FUCKED UP. just because blacks are in more doesn’t mean its racist.
    its because they were caught.

    so quit ur whining. its not racist

  7. @Unknown
    i have been doing some studing can you prove or disprove the odds vs times arguement in the Philidelpia study?
    it seems to be valid and i havent seen anything to disprove it

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