Death Penalty Maintains Racial Inequality

The inauguration of Barack Obama, one day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, has prompted a healthy discussion in the nation about racial and socioeconomic inequality.

As part of that discussion it is important to point out that, just like the divisions in the Jim Crow south, the death penalty continues to divide us by race and socioeconomic status.

In 1976, when the Supreme Court approved the modern death penalty statutes that were supposed to ensure that death sentences were no longer arbitrary and discriminatory, the Court stated that "capital punishment is an expression of society's moral outrage at particularly offensive conduct . . ."

Yet the evidence from the past 33 years demonstrates that capital punishment remains arbitrary and that society's moral outrage continues to be expressed loudest when wealthy white people are homicide victims. As blue ribbon study commissions in California (PDF), and Maryland (PDF) have recently reiterated, empirical research across the country consistently demonstrates that a defendant who kills a white person is far more likely to receive the death penalty than a defendant who kills a person of color, and the racial configuration most likely to result in a death sentence is a black-on-white crime. Similarly, this research demonstrates that defendants whose victims are high in socioeconomic status face a significantly higher risk of execution.

The death penalty's racial and socioeconomic bias persists despite the best efforts of legislators and judges to erect fair and equitable capital punishment procedures. This bias sends the clear and morally repugnant message that society values wealthy victims more than poor and middle class victims, and white victims more than victims of color. It is one more reason to abolish capital punishment. A society that follows Reverend King's admonition to judge men and women by their character and not their skin color values the lives of all equally, regardless of racial or socioeconomic status.

And capital punishment is harmful to people of color and poor people for another reason: The death penalty aggressively consumes scarce state resources upon which many poor people and people of color depend. In cities across the country, prosecuting death penalty cases has left prosecutors' offices in dire financial straits. In New Orleans, for example, the prosecutor's office has filed for bankruptcy after being held civilly liable for wrongfully sentencing to death an innocent man. Moreover, every dollar spent on the death penalty is one dollar unavailable for community policing and other measures to make poor and African-American communities safer.

The election of Barack Obama as our Nation's 44th President shows how far we have come towards healing the wounds of slavery and systemic racial discrimination. Our continued use of the death penalty, predominately in the South, shows how far we have yet to go.

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Jonathan

"culpae poenae par esto."
Let the punishment fit the crime.
If you murder someone you forfeit your own life and should die.

roald

Jonathan...Agree, let the punishment fit the crime. How do you punish the DA and police who lie to gain a conviction against an innocent person? How do you punish the people of the United States who allowed these government killings to happen?

For Vengeance

Crimes of extremism, such as racially-motivated killings, should always result in the death penalty, in my opinion. These people are unsalvageable. They respond to no reason. They will keep screaming their hate-filled speech 'till the last breath.

Wicked

"The election of Barack Obama as our Nation’s 44th President shows how far we have come towards healing the wounds of slavery and systemic racial discrimination. Our continued use of the death penalty, predominately in the South, shows how far we have yet to go."

What does Obummer have to do with the death penalty? What is this crap with the ACLU and the NAACP, we are opressed we need help, we are being kept down by "the man". Ok first of all who is "the man"? I am a hard working, tax paying, law abiding, family man of the great USA....and white. Am I "the man"?

You have numerous familes in New Orleans were put out by Katrina...$2500 debit cards because they cried they were opressed and black. I live in the midwest floods have hit here 3 times in 16 years, taking out millons in crops and homes....didn't hear us cry. Did I recieve a $2500 debit card..NO! I got a huge "well sorry that happened".

Quit crying over spilled milk from over 400 years ago. I had a hard time even getting a decent job when graduating college (oh yeah that I paid for, no federal loans or grants given to me because I was a minority), because I was a white male. You want to cry about opression?

This is supposed to be America but with organizations like the KKK, ACLU, NAACP, and I cannot forget about the reverend Sharpton and his fake church, how are my children and yours ever going to get along? All I see in the news is shootings every night...then the mother, cousin, or sister being the myrtar on TV, there needs to be more cops? No there needs to be less dumb asses walking around shooting each other.

Get rid of all the organized politcal BS organizations, impeech Obama, and let's make this one nation under GOD! Yes I said it GOD!.

Death Penalty A...

I don't feel the death penalty is racial bound. If you kill someone or more then someone you should be put to death. Why should my tax dollars give you food, and shelter, where you can receive letters from your love ones,when you took that away from someone. I am for the death penalty 100%.

I just seen a video where this precious 2 year child was killed by her stepfather and her mother. Her father was serving in Iraq and was due to be home in 2 weeks. For a year before that the little girl was abused by her stepfather and her mother didn't stop it, instead she married the idiot even after he had done this. He got 30 years and she got 27 years. The man who had to be over seas to protect us couldn't be here to protect his daughter. So how do we pay this poor soldier he has to come home to see his daughter's grave and pay taxes to support these 2 IDIOTS for the next 30 years.

Death Penalty Racial

You know I'm sorry statics show that more ethnic groups in our country are committing the crimes. So if you do the crime you pay the price and that's not a 8 foot jail cell where you can read and get a college education at my tax dollars. I don't care if you are black, white, mexican, blue, purple, or what ever color you are.

I'm actually tired of the so called minority getting all the breaks. If you would take a poll of the American society you would find that the white male between 25-40 is the biggest minority we have and is the one that actually has the hardest time. But if they took a life then theirs should be forfeited as well.

??????

u guys are fags

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