Sociological Images just posted about how the race of the victim determines whether the perpetrator gets the death penalty.
Even though half of all homicide victims are black, 77% of cases that result in the death penalty have a white victim. That’s a pretty clear indicator of what kind of lives we value.
The data is since 1976, and an Amnesty International report from 1990 shows similar patterns. Things might be improving (or they might not; it’s hard to find this kind of information), but they are still pretty bad:
A January 2003 study released by the University of Maryland concluded that race and geography are major factors in death penalty decisions. Specifically, prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when the race of the victim is white and are less likely to seek a death sentence when the victim is African-American.
A 2007 study of death sentences in Connecticut conducted by Yale University School of Law revealed that African-American defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims are white. In addition, killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes to deciding what charges to bring.
But let’s be cautious in how we handle this information: the solution should not be to give more people the death penalty, but to give fewer people the death penalty.
This post originally appeared on Starboard Broadside.