Literatuire review Essay

Submitted By Jude-Bernard
Words: 4273
Pages: 18

Introduction “Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them” – Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout the history of this country racism has been endemic in its culture. Progress has been made in the sense of going from the days of overt acts of racism, to a time where things are facially neutral. Despite all the progress that has been made, due to the deeply rooted history of racism in this country people still make decisions which they base off of their prejudices every day. The following studies and analyses provide insight on minorities’ differential treatment in the judicial system causing severe sentencing disparities.

Racial Disparity in Sentencing In the study Patterns of Death: An Analysis of Racial Disparities in Capital Sentencing and Homicide victimization, the authors Samuel Gross and Robert Mauro examine the effect race plays in Capital Sentencing. This study observes 8 states sentencing of capital punishment under the post-Furman death penalty laws. The 8 states used in the study were Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia. The study used SHR (Supplementary Homicide Reports) as its primary data source. These reports includes things such as: the age, sex, and race of both the victim and alleged killer, the date and location of the homicide, the weapon used in the homicide, commission of another felony along with the homicide, and the relationship between victim and alleged killer. The SHR’s used in this study cover all homicides between January 1, 1976 and December 31, 1980. The 8 states used in the study reported 379 homicides during that period, which was one-third of the national total. The study analyzed the SHR reports in conjunction with data from the LDF (Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP) who collects data on death row inmates. The study found interesting results. The study found racial discrimination was imposed in sentencing the death penalty in the eight states that were examined. The discrimination was found to be based on the race of the victim. In cases where the victim was white suspects were more likely to receive the death penalty than if the victim was black. The study also found that in most cases it was blacks who killed blacks and whites who killed whites, but in instances where blacks killed whites and whites killed blacks a disparity occurred. In Georgia 20.1% of the blacks who killed whites received the death penalty in comparison to 5.7% of whites who killed whites, and 2.9% of whites who killed blacks. In Florida 13.7% of blacks who killed whites received the death penalty in comparison to 5.2% of whites who killed whites, and 4.3% of whites who killed blacks. These statistics show there is disparity in sentencing of the death penalty based on race. Although this study did shed light on the issue of race playing a role in sentencing, it did have shortcomings. One of the major shortcomings was only selecting states with a large number of death penalty sentences. This biases the study because these states may be more preferential to the death penalty. The availability of data was another reason those eight states were chosen. Another limitation of the study was that there was some missing data, where some states had large amounts of data on the race of the victim and the race of the suspected killer missing. The eight states used in the study were mostly southern states, which in itself causes a bias because of the history of racism in the South. The purpose of this study was to show the racial disparity of in the sentencing of the death penalty, which it accomplished despite its limitations (Gross & Mauro, 1984). Thirty Years of Sentencing Reform: The Quest for a Racially Neutral Sentencing Process (2000), a review of previous works looks into the racial gap in sentencing and