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August 25, 2019

"Whom the State Kills"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new empirical paper authored by Scott Phillips and Justin Marceau now available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Through original quantitative research we show that persons convicted of killing a white victim and sentenced to death are more likely to be executed than persons convicted and sentenced to death for killing a black victim.  Previous research documents numerous forms of arbitrariness and racial disparity in the administration of the modern death penalty, but focuses exclusively on the charging and sentencing patterns of prosecutors and juries.  Previous research also reveals that implicit bias operates within the institutions tasked with seeking and obtaining sentences of death.  Our original research shows that the problem of disparate racial outcomes is actually exacerbated through the work of our most trusted check on the death penalty, appellate courts.

Building on David Baldus’s storied dataset from Georgia, we demonstrate that the racial disparities he discovered in the penultimate stage of the case — death sentences — were amplified in the ultimate stage of the case — executions.  Combining both phases reveals a stunning pattern: the execution rate is roughly 17 times greater in white victim cases than black victim cases.  Although Baldus could not have known how the cases would unfold post-sentencing, our findings indicate that the racial disparities described in McCleskey v Kemp (1987) underestimated the extent of the death penalty’s arbitrariness problem.

August 25, 2019 at 02:17 PM | Permalink


In my opinion: Does this research show that most black persons convicted of killing or being killed are from cultures outside the United States of America? Black American's are generally assimilated to American culture and love America.

Posted by: LC in Texas | Aug 26, 2019 2:11:59 PM

. . . and, coincidentally or not, black Americans are much more likely to be killed than white Americans. I have to wonder whether or not executing more murderers of black victims might reduce the horrific rate at which black Americans are the victims of homicide. I don't think it would turn things around overnight, but even a small reduction would be a big deal.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Aug 27, 2019 9:08:19 PM

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