Death penalty and racism

I’m not a regular reader of Mike Munger’s (Chair of Duke PS Department and Libertarian candidate for governor in NC) blog, but I do check out the occasional post he links to on facebook.  It is posts like this that make me sympathetic to the libertarian enterprise:

Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara
NBER Working Paper, April 2011

Abstract: …We find robust evidence of bias against minority defendants who killed white victims: In Direct Appeal and Habeas Corpus the probability of error in these cases is 3 and 9 percentage points higher, respectively, than for minority defendants who killed minority victims…

My own view [Munger]: Capital Punishment should be abolished immediately
1. It’s barbaric (I won’t insult you with a link. It’s obvious that the state should not have the power to murder a helpless unarmed person entirely in its power. If you come to my house and break in, I will shoot you, multiple times, with a large caliber weapon. But that’s self-defense. Capital punishment is obviously murder).
2. It’s racially biased. We mostly kill black people. (See above, or just read the damned newspaper in Texas)
3. It’s economically biased. If you can afford a real attorney, you’ll get life in prison. And public defenders simply cannot possibly give a real defense.
4. It’s more expensive. Cheaper to pay for lifetime incarceration than to pay for all the appeals after the fact. We provide little for actual trial expenses, but then pay millions for appealsafter the trial has been botched.

Yep.  It is important to note, that this is not just about the race of the defendant– there’s a real interaction here.  Black people killing other Black people, eh.  But a Black person killing a white person?  Then society really is ready to come down hard.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Death penalty and racism

  1. David says:

    I have a lot of libertarian sympathies as well; some on economics but most on issues of government’s coercive power. My take on this is that the above, not the government’s powers to fund education and health care, constitutes the real threat to liberty. That our money is often used to kill, maim or injure is something I think most people do not realize or choose to ignore, but it’s clear to me that the potential for abuse there is far greater than when money is spent on welfare measures.

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