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.