Death Penalty

Published 22 Aug 2016

There are many questions which popped up in my mind and try to figure out what are the possible bases that judiciaries are basing his/her decision in executing death penalty to a defendant or the accused himself. The death penalty is the heaviest and most depressing sentence for the accused; it ends his chances to change. Furthermore, according to others that death penalty is the best way to control and lessen crimes. But in practicing such law, does death penalty won’t show biases and prejudices of whom the judiciaries will give such sentence? It has been an argument not only in the United States of America but as well as around the globe. The death penalty is well-thought-out by most cultured and enlightened nation-states as an inhumane and callous sentence or chastisement. The death penalty has been de facto by 106 countries and since 1990, there were about 30 nation-states which have put an end to it. Moreover, the death penalty has continuously put into practice in some nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States of America, Iran and China which are the most profuse executioners in the globe. On the other hand, international official papers have constrained and in several circumstances even banned the death penalty, its function and relevance do not contradict the customary international law. Ample debates have continued in the United States of America as to whether it comprises a suitable chastisement at least to the most dreadful crimes.

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Moreover, this issue has been continually debated in the United States of America due to its fact that racism is almost present every time a judge makes a sentence for the defendant or accused. The illustration below shows the racial breakdown of district Attorneys* in United States Death Penalty States.

The purposes of this study are to:

  1. know who gets the death sentence;
  2. find out if there is any racism involve in performing death penalty;
  3. be aware of who receives the execution;
  4. find out the myth of racism in the death sentence and;
  5. acquaint us the number of executions performed and the race who faced death penalty due to racism in different states of United States of America.

Death Penalty – Cruel and Unusual?

Death penalty provides an illustration of the issues raised by the use of coercive forms of social control. Only recently (during this century in some nations) has the death sentence come to be widely thought of as barbaric. In simpler societies and earlier civilizations, an execution was not only a penalty carried out on an individual; it was also an occasion for a public ceremony. People attended beheadings and hangings, and hawkers sold them food and favors as they waited for the bloody pageant. The villain’s death reaffirmed as a people who could purge evil elements from their midst.

Today, by contrast, the value of capital punishment is a matter of heated debate. Although many people believe that the death sentence is necessary as means of discouraging some individuals from committing terrible crimes, others are convinced that there is no justification for putting another person to death, the more so because there is always the possibility that the person did not commit the crime for which he or she was executed. In one of a series of studies of the equity of capital punishment, criminologists Marvin Wolfgang and Marc Riedel (1999) found that blacks were more likely than whites to be executed for the same crimes and that people who could afford good lawyers were far more likely to escape execution than those who lacked the means to hire the best legal defenders.

In 2002, swayed by research findings and by arguments that death penalty could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” the United States Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that in the absence of clear specifications for when it might be used, the death sentence violated the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. But Congress has since passed legislation that legalized the death sentence ad the Court has not overruled it. As a result, the death penalty has been reinstated in a number of states and is being considered in several others.

But does death penalty have the effect of deterring people from committing murder, as its advocates claim? Much of the evidence on this subject is negative. There is little encouragement to be found in comparisons among states that have the death penalty, states that have had it with interruptions, and states that have never had it. On the other hand, in interviews with criminals charged with robbery James Q. Wilson (1999) found evidence that fear of the death penalty discouraged them from carrying guns. There is still considerable opposition to the death penalty among people who feel that it represents cruel and unusual punishment, but surveys indicate that the tide of public opinion is turning toward support for this most extreme of social sanctions. They also show, for better or worse, that the public’s increased concern about crime has led to greater emphasis on the use of the death sentence as retribution for murders that have already been committed and less emphasis on the possible deterrent effect of death penalty.

Who Gets the Death Sentence?

According to an article entitled “How Racism Riddles the U.S. Death Penalty” explained that “in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court was stricken down almost altogether death penalization in the state due to its reason that found them to be unpredictable and capricious and intensely not fair-Furman v. Georgia. In a cracked 5-4 judgment, every Justice wrote his own point of view and several cited indications of racial prejudices. In Gregg v. Georgia, the Court has proven and established a recent generation of capital decrees which assure and guarantee equal impartiality. At present, there are 38 states that practiced the death penalty. Since Greg, there was about 5,000 people have been sentenced to death and about 682 executions have been performed.

Most of those on the death row are the people who have different races. There was about 42 percent solely for the Black men of all death row prisoners even though they report for only 6 percent of people who live in the United States of America. Racism is found not only in the Southern part where most of the United States implementation and execution are taking place. In a study made by George Woodworth and David Baldus showed that blacks who reside in Philadelphia are four times more likely to receive the death penalty compared to other defendants or accused who execute the same murders. The Philadelphia has put 133 people on the death row which is more than most southern states. About 89 percent of the said qualified defendants or accused of the death sentence are people of color.

Who Receives an Execution?

Since 1976, approximately half of the executed have been people of the different race together with sole blacks’ record for about 35 percent. Everybody said that about 82 percent have been executed to death for the murder of a white person. And compared to white, only 1.8 percent was executed because the defendant was convicted of killing of an African, an Asian, or Latin descent. In every two persons executed, one is a black since 1930.


Wherever we go, racism is always present. The worst thing is, when racism also exists in giving a death penalty sentence to an accused. Does this “extreme penalization” applied fairly regardless to the class or race? Obvious and manifest racism is observed and witness too in courtrooms around the nation. In death penalty circumstances, the practice of pejorative and critical disgrace stirs up the flames of bias and partiality and to some extent permits the jury to adjudge unsympathetically and insensitively those they desire to incriminate for the said dilemma of the offense. There are several illustrations that can be given as examples:

  1. “One of you two is going to hang for this. Since you’re the nigger, you’re elected.” These were the words enunciated by a Texas police officer to Clarence Brandley who was penalized in the murdering of a white high school girl. And in 1990,
  2. Brandley was found guiltless after ten years on death row.
  3. Another circumstance was when there was a preparation going on for the penalty phase of an African-American defendant’s trial, a white judge from Florida stated in an open court that why do they need to send a subpoena when the two nigger parents are already on the court and just continue to give the penalty immediately. Anthony Peek received a death penalty sentence from the court and in 1986; the Florida Supreme Court established and confirmed the sentenced for a review due to his claim of racial bias.
  4. A certain prosecutor from Alabama provided his justification and cause for striking number possible jurors the verify that they were associated with Alabama State University, mainly black organization. The said excuse and ground were deliberated race-neutral by the said reviewing court.
  5. An election campaign happened in 1997 for Philadelphia’s Distinct Attorney; it was divulged and made known that one of the said candidates had wrought – serves as an Assistant D.A. – a preparation video for recent prosecuting attorneys in which he commanded them about whom to keep out and leave out in the cold from the adjudicators which noted that “young black women are very bad” on the adjudicators for a prosecuting attorney.
  6. Judge Earl Blackwell in Missouri gave out a signed press release all about his jurisdictional election proclaiming his recent association with the Republican Party at the same time ruling over a death penalty circumstance in opposition to a jobless African-American perpetrator. The magistrate has repudiated a motion to rescue himself from the said trial. Brian Kinder-the perpetrator- was found guilty and punished to death and in 1996, Missouri’s Supreme Court asserted it.

These were just the illustrations given which are figurative of a more methodical and orderly racism and they give us the scenarios of how racism and insensitivity occurred when somebody is facing an execution.

According to Richard C. Dieter in his article entitled “The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides” stated that “In Philadelphia, the death sentences’ raw data in the middle of 1983 and 1993 gives the primary piece of alarming and distressing indication that racism is still happening. The rate mentioned of qualified black defendants who were penalized to death reached about 40 percent compared to the rates for other qualified defendants.


There is another statistical data in the Death Penalty States which shows a risk of Racial Discrimination.


** The state which has no death penalty race data is accessible.

*** The state which has no death sentences enforced as of January 1, 1998.

Solitary findings whose calculations were statistically important and substantial, or where the ratio amongst death sentencing -or prosecutorial charging- rates (example amongst black victim and white victim circumstances) was 1.5 or greater and having an example dimension of at least 10 cases in every group, were contained within. The differences and inequalities in nine states-SC, MS, GA, KY, CA, NJ, NC, PA and CO-are based on well-controlled investigation and analysis. The calculations in different states are from less well-controlled findings and are lone evocative.

The total race of victim difference apart from solitary, Delaware, were in the route of more death sentences in white victim cases.

the total race of defendant difference apart from two, Tennessee and Florida, were in the route of more death sentences for black defendants or accused.

Another article written by Dudley Sharp advocated that “despite the fact that whites and blacks include an equal number of murder victims, the relation or proportion of white-to-black injured parties in death-penalty situations is about 7-to-1.”

Myth of Racism in Death Penalty

In an article entitled “Myth of racism in Death Penalty” published in one of the websites in the internet explained that “regardless of the assertions of death penalty adversaries, there is still slight indication and confirmation that prejudiced prosecuting attorneys are more obsessive and fervent on the order of pursuing the death penalty in opposition to the African-Americans- commented by the legal observers- or which adjudicators are directing blacks to death row frequently. The substantiation implies black murder perpetrators are no supplementary like to get death sentences compared to whites even though at the end part of the year 1996, there was about 42 percent of death row convicts were African-Americans. According to federal statistics in 1996, there was 43.2 percent of pugnacious offense cases and 54.9 percent of all offense cases, and the criminals involved were African-Americans, predominantly due to the fact that young black males perpetrate an inconsistent number of offenses mainly in opposition to other blacks. On the other hand, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics whites took into custody for manslaughter or homicide- other than inattentive homicide- are more susceptible to death sentence compared to blacks, about 1.6 percent of whites against 1.2 percent of blacks. And white death sentence convicts are supplementary like to be put to death since 1977 until 1996; about 7.2 percent of white convicts were put to death in comparison to 5.9 percent of blacks.

Another study presents that the federal death penalty is exercised excessively and unreasonably in opposition to minorities most especially to African Americans and which it is put into practiced in a topographically random and subjective way with several states such as Texas and Virginia- reporting for an enormous share of death penalty trials and hearings. According to DOJ information and statistics that it is approximately 80 percent of prisoners on federal death row are Hispanic, Black or from other smaller or lesser group. Smaller groups report and explain for 74 percent of the cases in which federal prosecuting attorneys search and strive for death penalty. The DOJ reassessment was the recent of many studies to illustrate the randomness and racism of the death penalty.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Everywhere we go, racism and death penalty has been an issue. Even though criminal-justice data and information did not present clear and understandable amongst crimes and the appliance of the death penalty. Prison demographics are the same to those of the death row. Two-thirds of all state and federal convicts is people of races or color. Blacks are about 8.2 supplementary like to be confined and restrained than whites. The United States has long imprisoned more people of African race per capita compared to any other nation on the globe which includes South Africa under separation.

In my own point of view, the legislators are the one who made laws. They should not make laws which are always in favor in their race or color. The juries, too, must review the death sentence which they give to the accused because it is a very serious matter or decision.


  1. “Human Rights: Death Penalty”.
  2. Dieter, R. C. “The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides”. June 1998.
  3. “How Racism Riddles the U.S. Death Penalty”. December 2000.
  4. Sharp, D. “Pro & Con: The Death Penalty in Black and White” Thursday, June 4, 1999.
  5. “Myth of racism in Death Penalty”. National Center for Policy Analysis.
  6. Stark, M. “Stop the Racist Death Penalty! Racism on Federal Death Row Exposed” November 2000, issue 17.
  7. Wolfgang, M. & Riedel, R. (1999). Race, judicial discretion and the death penalty. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 407, 119-133.
  8. Wison, J. Q. (1999). Thinking about crime. New York: Vintage.
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