Thursday, August 2, 2007

Racial bias in death penalty sentences AND executions

Black murder of whites not only the most likely to get the death penalty; Hispanic odds also greater than white-on-white murders

It’s also the most likely to lead to execution. Here’s the details, from a new research study by David Jacobs, a sociologist at Ohio State University.
A black who killed a white person has twice the risk of being executed than a white person who killed a non-white, he said. “The fact that blacks who kill non-whites actually are less likely to be executed than blacks who kill whites shows there is a strong racial bias here,” Jacobs said. “Blacks are most likely to pay the ultimate price when their victims are white.”

Hispanics who killed whites were also more likely to be executed than were whites who killed non-whites, the study found. But the risk of execution was not as strong for Hispanics who killed whites as they were for blacks who killed whites.

The study also reinforced previous findings by Jacobs that the likelihood of a legal death penalty was greater in states with higher proportions of black residents, an ideologically more conservative population, and in states where there was greater support for Republican candidates.

In the new research, Jacobs found that execution probabilities increase in states along with the population of African Americans, up to a point. But when the population of blacks reaches about 16 percent of the population, executions start to decrease. Probably at that point, African-Americans have enough votes and political influence within a state to reduce the number of executions, Jacobs said.

One more piece of evidence that racial bias still exists in sentencing, above all in death penalty cases. One more reason to abolish it.

Cross posted at SocraticGadfly.