Racism in /my/ death penalty? It’s more complicated than you think

HUMAN 0
Ron Paul says death penalty trial fueled Texas county’s tax hike – “It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty.”

HUMAN 1
I’m not even going to dance around it and try to say there’s some other reason.

I think if you kill somebody with the intent of doing so, you deserve to die.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this way, obviously.

The 4 percent of people executed being innocent is misquoted and here is the study it is misquoted from. Another misquoted number is 1.6% of people on death row since 1973 have been executed and later exonerated. This is not true: 1.6% of people on death row since 1973 have been exonerated, not executed and later exonerated.

Everything I have said is my opinion, you don’t have to agree with it, I don’t expect anybody to, but damn, calm down.

And to address some very thoughtful concerns on who kills the executioner, we don’t need to be smart asses, obviously nobody kills the executioner. I think that about covers it.

As the death penalty is applied in the United States, it’s more likely to be used if you’re a minority and poor than white and rich, regardless of other facts of the case.

In addition, whatever abstract sense of justice you may have about it, the utilitarian effect doesn’t seem to exist. Texas is not a less violent state than all others for executing more people than all others. In fact, nations that execute their citizens don’t tend to be more safe, or have a better quality of life, than those who’ve abolished it.

Finally, and to utilitarianism, if you remember the ‘crime of the century’ by Leopold and Loeb, the two of them murdered a young boy as nothing more than a game and to prove they could. But Clarence Darrow successfully spared them the death penalty. Loeb got killed in prison, but Leopold was paroled after 30 years and went on to have a peaceful, productive life in Puerto Rico until his own death.

My point is that rather than wasting energy & resources killing someone to attempt retribution and probably not getting it, it is possible to make someone capable of rejoining society and increasing its happiness.

HUMAN 1:
The numbers don’t look much different from what I would expect given more general crime statistics (FBI table 43 for example). Would you like to elaborate?

I admit, I didn’t realize the homicide statistics skewed that heavily demographically, so thanks for pointing my way to it.

However, the Uniform Crime Reporting table 43 you’re talking about is only somewhat related to the death penalty, because only very rarely does a homicide arrest lead to a death penalty case.

The time range of the Death Penalty Info page linked above doesn’t match up exactly with this Justice Bureau report that stops in 2005, but check out the race section starting with page 58. While 47 percent of homicide victims from 1976-2005 were black, only 15.2 percent of those executed killed black people.

It’s simultaneously fair to say that black Americans are underrepresented on death row by their proportion of homicides but still overrepresented based on the types of homicides that end up on death row.

White people show up as much as they do because, in practice, killing white people is considered by the criminal justice system a more heinous act than killing a black person, and 86 percent of white homicides and 94 percent of black homicides were intra-racial (page 66 ). Maybe, fundamentally, that’s a racial empathy thing going on.

In spite of the Jasper case referenced in the above Politfact article and Ron Paul quote, it is extraordinarily rare for a white person killing a black person to end up on death row, compared with a black person killing a white person. See page 6 for a more detailed breakdown.

I won’t promise to have read this research paper in its entirety, but the parts that were within my understanding were interesting and arrived at a similar place in a more methodical way.

Page 72: “Overall, the primary racial difference in capital charging is the difference across racial lines in intra-race cases. Homicides with white defendants and white victims are treated significantly more harshly than homicides with black defendants and black victims.”

Even assuming race were no factor at all, and you shouldn’t, prosecutorial discretion is extremely arbitrary even depending which part of a state you’re in, and whether an individual district attorney likes to seek the death penalty, just use it as leverage, or take it off the table entirely, is a disparity that has a real effect on people otherwise accused of the same level of heinous crime.

HUMAN 1:
Great post with some interesting points.

Advertisements

Published by

adavidjohnson

A David Johnson, of many. The (poorly) recovering journalist of West Texas extraction one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s