Study finds CT’s death penalty racially biased

Only now is word leaking about the substance of the death penalty challenge that is the subject of tomorrow’s hearing [previous post here]. The seven inmates that are party to the challenge are relying on a study [pdf] by Yale Law School professor, which finds that there is racial disparity and arbitrariness in the way the death penalty is charged and sought in Connecticut.

Yale Law School professor John J. Donohue III, who oversaw the study, said one of the most surprising findings is that the death penalty is often not sought for crimes that are more violent and disturbing than ones where lethal injection is pursued.

“There was basically no rational system to explain who got the death penalty,” Donohue said Tuesday. “It really is about as random a process as you can possibly construct.”

Over the past year, researchers reviewed 207 murder cases dating back to the early 1970s that were eligible for death penalty prosecution. Donohue said 60 percent of the defendants were minorities and 40 percent were white, numbers that conflict with the percentages in the general population.

Among the other findings in Donohue’s 128-page report:

  • Black defendants receive death sentences at three times the rate of white defendants in cases where the victims were white.
  • Killers of white victims are treated more severely than people who kill minorities, when it comes time to decide the charges.
  • Minorities who kill whites receive death sentences at higher rates than minorities who kill minorities.

Of the inmates on death row, four are black, three are white and two are Hispanic.

I’m looking for a copy of this study. If someone has it, please let me know. Here it is.

4 thoughts on “Study finds CT’s death penalty racially biased

  1. SPO

    You know, you don’t even have to read this BS report–this sentence shows how this guy is an unserious clown:

    “Donohue said 60 percent of the defendants were minorities and 40 percent were white, numbers that conflict with the percentages in the general population.”

    African-Americans/minorities commit murder at a far higher rate than whites in America. That likely holds true in Connecticut. Thus it stands to reason that there would be more minorities whose crimes are death-eligible.

    As for his comment about no rational system, well we don’t simply look at the results to make that conclusion. Say what you want about capital punishment–it is played by a set of very specific rules, most of which have a reason. Why one murderer gets death and another does not–hey Donohoe, here’s a clue, it’s called a jury system and prosecutorial discretion.

  2. Gideon Post author

    Yeah, but that’s just it. The prosecutorial discretion is racially motivated, is part of the claim. The numbers do back it up.

    Of course, the downside (for anti-dp people) is that more prosecutors will start seeking the DP.

  3. SPO

    And of course, the turkey lumps all prosecutors together. Minority victims are going to have more lenient prosecutions, given that they tend to be concentrated in more liberal jurisdictions. No shock there. When minorities kill whites, it tends to be stranger-type murders, which are more likely to support a death case. That would explain a lot . . . .

    You cannot compare white on white murders to black on white murders because the pool is different.

    In any event, on a macro-level, if you are a white killer in America, you are more likely to be executed than a minority killer. That is a fact impossible to dispute. Any allegations of “the death penalty is racist” needs to take that fundamental fact into account.

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