When people think of race and the death penalty, a lot of them make the assumption that Black people convicted of murder are more likely to receive capital punishment. They are, but only because they are more likely to kill Black victims. There’s little evidence that the race of the murderer affects death penalty sentences– its the race of the victim that really matters. The latest study on the matter looks at almost 3 decades in NC:
Someone accused of killing a white person in North Carolina is nearly three times as likely to get the death penalty than someone accused of killing a black person, according to a study released Thursday by two researchers who looked at death sentences over a 28-year period.
The findings come as many in North Carolina are focusing on the death penalty and race. Death-row inmates have only a few more weeks to file challenges to their sentences under the Racial Justice Act approved by the legislature last year.
For the study, touted as one of the most comprehensive examinations to date of the modern administration of the death penalty in North Carolina, Michael L. Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Glenn L. Pierce, a research scientist in the Northeastern University school of criminology and criminal justice in Boston, examined 15,281 homicides in the state between Jan. 1, 1980, and Dec. 31, 2007. Of those, 368 resulted in death sentences.
The researchers looked at many factors, such as the number of victims and whether other crimes such as burglaries and robberies were committed during the homicide. They also tried to consider similar homicide cases.
Their analysis of the data showed that the odds of receiving a death sentence in cases where the victim was white were 2.96 times as high as the odds in cases with black victims.
I’d really like to check out actual study and see the methodology, but in what strikes me as quite irresponsible, the actual study appears to be nowhere near on-line, despite the news blitz. Anyway, other issues with the death penalty aside, that 3 to 1 ratio is certainly a worrying statistic. It really is amazing that so many people (and by people, I mean conservatives) insist that there’s really no more racism.