DYK (#6) Race of Victim and the Death Penalty

While highly publicized stories of white supremacists like Dylan Roof receiving the Death Penalty may suggest that there is some ‘racial justice’ present in the sentencing process, statistics about interracial murders speak otherwise. As of December 2018, 75.6% of victims (in cases where the defendant was executed) were white, as opposed to 15% who were African American.

In regards to interracial murders, since 1976 only 20 executions have taken place where the victim was black and the defendant was white, out of 1490 executions. This is hardly more than 1% of executions. Conversely, 290 have taken place where the victim was white and defendant was African American, which is roughly 20% of executions. Race of the victim is one of the largest factors for likelihood to receive or not receive a death sentence. There is a clear imbalance in which race of victims are deemed worthy of death penalty prosecution and which race of defendants is most easily sentenced to death for interracial murders. Our neighboring state of Louisiana exemplifies this as well, according to Daily Kos. They note that “72 percent of homicide victims in Louisiana are black, yet their killers have been executed in only eight cases out of 12,949 homicides since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.” and that “A white man has never once, in all of Louisiana’s history, been executed for killing a black man.” This imbalance also exists in sentencing and wrongful convictions, as we will discuss later this month. Should whether you die depend on the race of your victim, or does this show us that white supremacy continues to haunt our present notions of justice?

Sources: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-death-row-inmates-executed-1976#Vic

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/1/11/1468450/-In-Louisiana-a-white-man-has-never-been-executed-for-killing-a-black-man

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