Controversy of Race in Death Penalty





Controversy of Race in Death Penalty

The issue of race continues to exert significant controversy in relation to the death penalty. Accordingly, the biased approach toward minorities continues to develop racial differences especially in the imposition of capital punishment within the American judicial system. A long-observed custom within American justice, capital punishment became under legal and public scrutiny following the laissez-faire 1960s decade. Even though much of this criticism started on an ethical note, the main issue involves racial discrimination. The argument on one side asserts that the number of cases involving African Americans and white individuals possess high death penalty rates than those involving minorities alone. Conversely, opponents allege that imposition of the death sentence does not depend on the defendant’s skin color as much as the victim’s race. In relation to the arguments, the purpose of the paper is to argue for the existence of racial bias in the awarding of the death penalty.

The death penalty continues to elicit mixed reactions in accordance to ethical observations. Apparently, the fact that the state has authority over the life of an individual undergoes viewership as oppressive rather than liberal. However, in this case, the problem of racial prejudice presents a strong legal claim against the conventional practice. In supporting the rebuttal of the death penalty in terms of race, it is evident that majority of the cases involving crimes committed against white people receive higher rates of the practice especially if the perpetrator is a minority. Accordingly, over half of 3000 individuals on death row countrywide comprise persons of color. Of these people, African Americans comprise the highest rate, which is over 40 percent. Further research also surmises that the defendant is highly susceptible to receive a death penalty if the injured party is white such as the case in Furman v. Georgia, 1972 (Markovitz and Harver 1; Haas 388).

Adding to the argument for racial bias in the death penalty, research also shows that the chief decision makers within cases involving this respective practice are nearly exclusively white. Based on this statement, it is unsurprising to find that the rates coincide with the findings aforementioned within the first argument. In view of this second argument, it is clear that racial prejudice is evident in the American justice system. This is because of the lack of auditing and implementation of policies such as the Racial Justice Act that will either ban the death penalty or even ensure that equality undergoes implementation even within the confines of the courtroom (Ragone and Williams 293). Despite of the numbers implicating the justice framework and the evidences indicating the proof of racial bias in the administration of the practice, the courts and legislatures consistently refuse to address race.

On the other hand, the arguments against the proposition assert the non-involvement of racial bias in the provision of the death penalty. Foremost, the prison population involved in the perpetration of capital offenses influences the number of minorities, specifically, African Americans receiving the death penalty. This is because of the different sizes of states in America. Consequently, states involved in the administration of the practice such as California, Texas and Florida continually gain attention based on their size rather than the number of people they execute on a routine basis (Blume, Eisenberg, and Wells 166). In view of this, the fact that the population size affects the rate at which death penalties undergo presentation proves that racial bias is an insignificant issue within the application of the said practice.

Another argument against the involvement of racial prejudice involves gender disparity. Accordingly, the research carried to prove the existence of bigotry in the American judicial system focuses on one side of the sample populace. Based on this, it may provide results that provide a blurry and wrongful illustration of the issue at hand. Indeed, concerning gender disparity, the number of women present in prison for capital offenses is considerably lower than that of men (Greenlee and Greenlee 321). Because of this realization, the research largely concentrates on men liable for death row based on this structural anomaly. Hence, any information arising from such studies is gender-biased and does not present an actual account of any form of prejudice in the provision of the death penalty.

In conclusion, race continues to be a controversial subject in the American judicial system. With respect to the death penalty, people are against each other based on whether there is presence or absence of racial bias in the administration of the death penalty. For racial bias, the claims revolve around the susceptibility of minorities, in particular African Americans to undergo execution for crimes committed against white people. In contrast, opponents assert issues of gender disparity and state sizes as reasons enough to discredit any discrimination in the system.









Works Cited:

Blume, John, Theodore Eisenberg and Martin T. Wells. “Explaining Death Row’s Population and Racial Composition.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 1.1 (2004): 165-207. Print.

Greenlee, Harry and Shelia P. Greenlee. “Women and the Death Penalty: Racial Disparities and Differences.” William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law 14.2 (2008): 319-335. Print.

Haas, Kenneth C. “The Emerging Death Penalty Jurisprudence of the Roberts Court.” Pierce Law Review 6.3 (2008): 387-440. Print.

Markowitz, Michael W. and William E. Harver. “Public Sentiment on the Death Penalty: Do Race, Gender, Age & State of Mind Matter.” n.d. 1-14. PDF file.

Ragone, Patricia L. and J. Michael Williams. “The Death Penalty in the Twenty-First Century.” The American University Law Review 45.239 (2005): 240-349. Print.



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