[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- CALIFORNIA
j_sommer at gmx.net
Thu Sep 22 13:20:55 CDT 2005
death penalty news
September 22, 2005
Death penalty biased, study says - Report raises
questions about race, class equality in sentencing
The murder of a white person, especially in
nonurban counties, is far more likely to result
in a California death sentence than urban crimes
against minorities, according to a new study.
Death penalty opponents say this new evidence
that race and geography dictate how the state
metes out capital punishment proves the system is
skewed and must be halted at least until it's fixed.
The study, in a forthcoming issue of the Santa
Clara Law Review, reviewed all California
homicides committed from the start of 1990
through the end of 1999, using data from the FBI
and the state. Among its key findings:
-Of 11 men executed since the state reinstated
its death penalty in 1978, nine or 82 percent
were convicted of killing white victims, while
only 27.6 percent of murder victims are white.
-In the 1990s, those who murdered whites were
more than four times as likely to be sentenced to
death than those who murdered Latinos and more
than three times as likely to be sentenced to
death than those who murdered African Americans.
-A first-degree murder convict in a predominantly
white, rural county was more than three times as
likely to be sentenced to death than a person
convicted of a similar crime in a diverse, urban
county such as Los Angeles, which has the state's highest number of homicides.
Santa Clara University Law School Dean Donald
Polden, submitted the report Wednesday to the
California Commission on the Fair Administration
of Justice, which holds its second meeting next week in Sacramento.
Polden's letter to the commission says the study
authored by a Northeastern University research
scientist and a University of Colorado sociology
professor "raises significant questions about
whether the death penalty is being administered fairly in this state."
Advocacy groups want the commission to act on this immediately.
"This study demonstrates for the first time that
race and place determine who is sentenced to die
in the state of California," said Erin Callahan,
Amnesty International USA's western regional director, in a news release.
Natasha Minsker, death penalty policy director
for the American Civil Liberties Union of
Northern California, said the commission must
"determine where the bias enters the system. Is
it when the prosecutor decides to seek the death
penalty or when a jury chooses to sentence a person to death?"
And Death Penalty Focus program director Stefanie
Faucher said the state must halt executions until these issues are addressed.
The state Senate formed the 14-member Justice
Commission in 2004 to study causes and prevalence
of wrongful convictions and wrongful executions
in California, and to find ways to improve the
system's fairness and accuracy. It has a Dec. 31,
2007, deadline to report its findings and
recommendations to the governor and Legislature.
California's death row is the nation's largest,
with 647 condemned inmates about 39 percent
white, 35 percent African American and 19 percent
Latino. The state has executed 11 since reinstating its death penalty in 1978.
See the study at http://www.aclunc.org/dp/deathpenaltystudy.pdf.
(source: Inside Bay Area)
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