I don’t know what to title it.. So if you could think of one that would be great!
Bias in the Capital Punishment System
Bias in The Capital Punishment System
Stats on Racial Bias
• From 1995 to 2000, federal prosecutors sought Death Penalty for 183
defendants; 74% were minorities.
• Of the 21 people on death row as of 2001, 81% were black or
• Among black defendants found guilty of murdering a white person:
• 57.5% of defendants with "stereotypically black" features -- broad noses, thick lips, dark skin
and hair -- were sentenced to death.
• 24.4% of men who were rated as less stereotypically black were given the death sentence.
• Among black defendants found guilty of murdering a black person:
• 45% of the "stereotypically black" defendants were sentenced to death.
• "In 82% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to
influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or
receiving the death penalty, i.e., those who murdered whites were
found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered
- United States General Accounting Office, Death Penalty Sentencing, February 1990
RACE OF DEFENDANTS EXECUTED IN
THE U.S. SINCE 1976
BLACK: 425 people or 34.93%
LATINO: 91 people or 7.15%
WHITE: 692 people or 56.06%
OTHER: 25 people or1.85%
NOTE: The federal government counts
some categories, such as Hispanics, as
an ethnic group rather than a race.
DPIC refers to all groups as races
because the sources for much of our
use these categories.
RACE OF VICTIMS SINCE 1976
BLACK: 274 people or 14.51%
LATINO: 106 people or 5.41%
WHITE: 1394 people or 77.86%
OTHER: 47people or 2.22%
NOTE: Number of Victims refers to
the victims in the underlying murder
in cases where an execution has
occurred since the restoration of the
death penalty in 1976. There are
more victims than executions
because some cases involve more
than one victim
CURRENT U.S. DEATH ROW
POPULATION BY RACE
BLACK: 1,351 people or 41.43%
LATINO: 383 people or 11.74%
WHITE: 1,448 people or 44.40%
OTHER: 79 people or 2.42%
“How Prosecutors Fabricated the Case Against
• In 1998 an African American male named Rodney
Reed is accused of murdering a 19 year old, white,
female named, Stacy Stites.
• Over ten years later, Rodney still sits on death row
awaiting his last appeal.
• He got a new hearing due to “allegations of
prosecutorial misconduct, suppressed evidence and
contrary eyewitness reports that have simmered
away for years” (McDonald).
What is wrong with this picture?
• He is a black male, accused of killing a white female.
• The female was engaged to an officer of Bastrop County.
• Witnesses and some evidence were never presented in
• The judge of his appeal hearing was the daughter of the
original judge who convicted him.
• The lead investigator in the case, Ed Salmela (and also a
friend of Jimmy Fennel, her fiancé) committed suicide
during the middle of their case.
• Their apartment was never investigated, even though it
was the last place Stites was known to be before she
• The truck was given back to Fennel, even though bodily
fluids were found on the passenger side.
Defense Attorneys• Serving as a court-appointed attorney
is an initiation to “real” legal work.
• “I was more or less dragged, kicking
and screaming, into working on the
• “My arrangement with the law firm
enabled me to spend a substantial
amount of my time doing free legal
work for poor people” (Tabak).
• “some sleep during the trial, and some
even fail to call a single witness in their
client’s defense” (Applegate).
• AND, some never object during at trial
• Jury Selection- 5% of accused
offenders face trial by jury.
• Prosecution and defense try to
“find a jury competent to try”
• Allen Snyder “prides himself
on achieving a death penalty
verdict against as many
defendants as possible,
prevented blacks from
participating in the jury” (Falk).
Capital Jury Project
• Jurors tend to make decisions about the appropriate
• Jurors were selected in such a way that those inclined to
impose the death sentence were overrepresented.
• Jurors did not understand the instructions on how to decide
whether the capital sentence was appropriate.
• Juries frequently believed that the law required the death
• Jurors largely felt that the choice of punishment was out of
• Both the racial composition of the jury and the race of
individual jurors influence capital decision.
• Jurors tend to underestimate the severity of non-death
Bias Judges• State Judges face re-election,
therefore they are seeking to gain
many guilty verdicts to look
“successful” and “tough on crime”
• Judges who hear appeal cases “serve
as important rectifiers of injustices
perpetrated by prosecutors or
resulting from false eyewitness
identification.” However, many
judges were former prosecutors (Falk
• In New York, there are 1250 judges.
“These judges have little education.
Some are not even high school
graduates. They include hair dressers,
state troopers, and phone company
• Prosecutors: withhold evidence that casts doubt on the
defendant’s guilt, making statements to the jury that might
bias them toward imposing a death sentence, striking
people from the jury who might hesitate to vote for capital
punishment, and other acts of misconduct.
• “One of the most atrocious suck confessions was coerced
from two Chicago boys, aged 7 and 8, who were pressured
by the police to confess to the murder of an 11-year-old
girl. Interrogated without lawyers or their parents, alone
and defenseless, the boys told the police what these “law
enforcers” wanted to hear (Falk).
• Falsely accuse and win “because the victim’s of false
accusations and false prosecutions are usually poor and
defenseless” (pg. 35).
• “Their own reelection depends on the public’s belief that
the prosecutor has gained large numbers of convictions”
Informing the Public
• Created a Facebook Group
• Posted information, links, and this
PowerPoint presentation and asked people
• “How did this affect your opinion or change
• PLEASE COMMENT! WHATEVER YOU
THINK / FEEL / BELIEVE!
SourcesFree Rodney Reed: He Is Innocent. Rodney’s Case on Film. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <http://www.freerodneyreed.org/?page_id=11>.
McDonald, Robert. "The Texas Railroad to Death Row." CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.
6 Apr. 2006. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <http:// www.counterpunch.org/mcdonald04062006.html>.
"Rodney Reed Hearing Stirring Bastrop County." KXAN News, 25 Mar. 2006. Web. 07 Nov. 2010.
<http://disc.yourwebapps.com/discussion.cgi?disc=207906;article=14197;title=Against Death Rows>.
Robinson, Bruce A. "Facts about Capital Punishment - the Death Penalty." ReligiousTolerance.org by the Ontario Consultants on
Religious Tolerance. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 1995. Web. 08 Nov. 2010.
Applegate, B. (2006). The Myth that the Death Penalty is Administered Fairly In R. Bohm, & J. T. Walker (Eds.), Demystifying
Crime and Criminal Justice (pp.158-166). Los Angeles: Roxbury.
Falk, Gerhard. The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't, and How to Fix It. Praeger Publishers, 2010.
Tabak, Ronald J. "The Egregiously Unfair Implementation of Capital Punishment in the United States: 'Super Due Process' or Super
Lack of Due Process?" Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 147.1 (2003): n. pag.JSTOR. Web. 14 Nov.