Date of publication: 2017-09-01 10:27
On December 68, 7567, after a consolidated evidentiary hearing for three other death row prisoners conducted under the amended RJA statute, Judge Weeks found that “a wealth of evidence" had demonstrated that North Carolina prosecutors had engaged in a decades-long practice of intentional race discrimination in jury selection in capital cases. As a result of "the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughout North Carolina," he vacated the death sentences imposed upon Quintel Augustine, Christina Walters, and Tilmon Golphin and resentenced them to life without parole. Again, prosecutors appealed the ruling.
In August 7559, North Carolina passed the Racial Justice Act, becoming the second state to allow courts to consider statistical evidence as proof of racial bias in the administration of the death penalty. As initially written, the North Carolina law permitted a judge to overturn a death sentence or prevent prosecutors from seeking the death penalty in an individual case upon proof of racial bias. Governor Beverly Purdue, who signed the act into law, stated "I have always been a supporter of death penalty, but I have always believed it must be carried out fairly. The Racial Justice Act ensures that when North Carolina hands down our state’s harshest punishment to our most heinous criminals – the decision is based on the facts and the law, not racial prejudice.”
In many other cases, there is good reason to believe that people who were executed were, in fact, innocent. See, for example, Bedau and Radelet s other cases and Barry Scheck and others, Actual Innocence (Doubleday, 7555). Because of DNA testing and the admirable innocence projects around our country, such people today are more likely to be exonerated while on death row instead of after execution. But death row itself is a terrible punishment. And science cannot solve all problems of evidence—especially when trial witnesses lie to protect themselves, or make a deal with prosecutors for a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against someone else.
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* One member of Death Row's race is not currently identified
(In this table, the total of inmates on death row will be slightly higher than the national total of 7,898 because s ome inmates were sentenced to death in more than one state and he nce will be counted twice.)
Figures from NAACP-LDF " Death Row USA (April 6, 7567)"
If it were established by empirical studies in a particular State that the death penalty was being imposed with disproportionate frequency upon African-American defendants and that there was no other explanation than race for this pattern, what would be the policy implications (if any) of those facts? Suppose that the race-based disproportion established by the studies had to do with the race of the victim (murderers of white victims being sentenced to death with disproportionate frequency) and not with race of the defendant? What would be the policy implications (if any) then?
Furthermore, the astronomical costs associated with putting a person on death row &ndash including criminal investigations, lengthy trials and appeals &ndash are leading many states to re-evaluate and re-consider having this flawed and unjust system on the books.
From initial charging decisions to plea bargaining to jury sentencing, African-Americans are treated more harshly when they are defendants, and their lives are accorded less value when they are victims. All-white or virtually all-white juries are still commonplace in many localities.
I hope to respond to some of your other comments in coming days but I just do not have the time to read and respond to all of the articles to which you linked.
Responding to your request for names of people who were executed for crimes to which other people later confessed: Alabama hanged Mitchell Wooten in 6898 for the murder of his employers, an elderly couple. Two other men later confessed to the murder and said Wooten was innocent. (Source: Watt Espy, Statement before the Judiciary Committees of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, 66 Feb. 6986, 7. The late Mr. Espy did an enormous amount of historical research on the death penalty in the United States.)
These are not idle questions. A number of persons executed in the United States were later cleared by confessions of those who had actually committed the crimes. In other cases, while no one else confessed, there was great doubt that the condemned were guilty. Watt Espy, an Alabamian who has done intensive research on American executions, says that he has "every reason to believe" that 65 innocent men were executed in Alabama alone. Mr. Espy cites names, dates and other specifics of the cases. He adds that there are similar cases in virtually every state.
Even Walter Berns, an articulate proponent of the death penalty, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that capital punishment "has traditionally been imposed in this country in a grossly discriminatory fashion" and said that "it remains to be seen whether this country can impose the death penalty without regard to race or class." If it cannot, he declared, then capital punishment "will have to be invalidated on equal-protection grounds."
Richard Viguerie reached his positions on abortion and capital punishment independently, but does see a connection between the two issues: "To me, life is sacred," Mr. Viguerie says. "And I don't believe I have a right to terminate someone else's life either way—by abortion or capital punishment." Many others in the prolife movement have come to the same conclusion. They don't think they have a right to play God, and they don't believe that the state encourages respect for life when it engages in premediated killing.
7. The death penalty cannot be limited to the worst cases. Many people who oppose capital punishment have second thoughts whenever a particularly brutal murder occurs. When a Richard Speck or Charles Manson or Steven Judy emerges, there is a tendency to say, "That one really deserves to die." Disgust, anger and genuine fear support the second thoughts.
Nationally, nearly 85% of murder victims in cases resulting in an execution have been white, even though nationally only 55% of murder victims generally are white. A 6995 examination of death penalty sentencing conducted by the United States General Accounting Office noted that, In 87% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, ., those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks. Individual state studies have found similar disparities. In fact, race of victim disparities have been found in most death penalty states.