Discrimination Within The Death Penalty

.. e Commission published a report on crime in 1996 detailing all aspects of crime in the United States. It acknowledges the relationship between poverty, family breakdown, and criminal justice. It also demonstrates that there are more minorities that whites in the criminal justice system. (Donziger) It must be admitted, therefore, that justice does not always prevail for those of all races and socioeconomic strata. One of the most notable problems, the Commission found, was the cost of defense.

The overwhelming majority of people accused of crimes cannot afford to hire their own attorney, let alone expert witnesses.Nor do they have the funds to analyze DNA evidence independent of the prosecution, a process that can cost tens of thousands of dollars (Donziger). Public defenders are almost always pushed to the limit not only financially but with time as well. Some public defenders can carry 350 cases or more at a time. It might even occur that a public defender might not meet his or her client until the day of the trial. Hutchinson, Death Penalty, 6 There have been a number of studies detailing the criminalization of minorities. In a 1989 report on The Sentencing Project, it was found that one out of every four African-American men aged 20 to 29 were either incarcerated, on probation, or out on parole. (Donziger) It was found in 1993 by a Federal Court in Duval County, Florida, that 76% of African-American men [in that county] would be arrested and jailed at least one time before the age of 36.

(Donziger) Later, The Sentencing Project, in 1995, found that on an average day in America, one out of three African-American men aged 20-29 was either in prison or jail, on probation or parole (Donziger). These findings indicate that minorities are very obviously not given equal treatment in the criminal justice system. There are several groups who argue that the death penalty is administered in disproportionately higher frequency on the poor, who cannot afford qualified counsel, and minorities, who are widely represented on death row (Facts on file). These groups include some of the following: American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, and the Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. In 1972, the Supreme Court found that the methods and system of capital punishment were laden with discrimination.

The Court then struck down all the death penalty laws existing in the 32 states which had allowed the death penalty. (Facts on file) The Supreme Court re-examined the new laws developed by each state and decided to reinstate some practical conditions: one being the bifurcated trial method developed in Georgia. Since that time, the Federal government and each states government has been responsible for examining the capital punishment system. Hutchinson, Death Penalty, 7 Texas Death Row: While forty states provide for capital punishment, nowhere has it been embraced as enthusiastically as in Texas, with a reported 90 percent public approval ratefully one-third of all executions in the United States [take place in Texas] (Donovan, 8). The distinctive difference in executing those members of the lower class has been seen in Texas just like the rest of the United States.

The men of Death Row are disproportionately poor, uneducated, and African-American compared to the rest of the population (although in absolute numbers, the majority is Caucasian) (Donovan, 15). This is stating that although the majority of men on death row are white, compared to the overall population percentage African-Americans are very obviously discriminated against. It also highlights that the men are of a lower class and mainly without education. The state of Texas, with its exorbitant use of the death penalty, even has problems itself. What the political debate over laws governing capital murder trials and appeals never acknowledges is the arbitrary nature of the criminal justice system, or the laws in the death penalty schemes (Donovan, 16).

The death penalty might actually act as a deterrent to crime if it was used effectively. In the 1930s, murderers were often executed within months of committing a crime. In 1999, the median murderer was executed for a crime committed in 1988 (Tucker). However, since the 1930s, the actual time on death row has lengthened immensely. The average length of time between conviction and execution in Texas is seven and a half years.(This will change eventually since recently passes state and federal laws governing post-conviction habeas corpus appeals are designed to reduce the time from final conviction) (Donovan, 9).

It Hutchinson, Death Penalty, 8 is almost guaranteed that no matter how many laws go through the system, there will never be a law that ensures that people of all classes get equal quality representation at their trial regardless of their race or class. Information regarding Texas Executions: Employment Type Number (out of most recent executed) Truck driver 3 Barber 1 Auto sales 1 Roofer 2 Electrician 2 Press operator 2 Welder 1 Laborer 12 Mechanic 4 Carpenter 2 Manager 3 Construction 3 Nurses aide 1 Auto body repair 1 Commercial printer 1 Clerk 1 Dry Waller 1 Correctional officer 1 Clerical 1 Computer technology 1 Painter 1 Cashier 1 Attendant 1 Cable TV technology 1 Education Level Number 7th grade 3 8th grade 3 9th grade 5 9th with GED 1 10th grade 6 10th with GED 3 11th grade 8 11th with GED 3 12th grade 9 12 years plus 7 Unknown 1 (Prisoner Information) Hutchinson, Death Penalty, 10 Conclusion: Economic standing is more likely to explain why some defendants are sentenced to death, while others convicted of similar charges are sentenced to life in prison (Culver). The media is just now starting to wake up and realize that the class differences within the criminal justice system and capital punishment are a serious problem. It was once said by a judge: The Constitution guarantees you a right to a lawyer, but it doesnt guarantee you that the lawyer has to be awake (Race, Class,). This was a statement made after a man was sentenced to die even though his lawyer had slept through the trial.

Not just cat napped but audibly snored. If that is not a blatant case of injustice, how do we begin to fix what is going on? What is necessary to make people realize that it is not just race that plays a part in social injustice but socioeconomic status as well? Social Issues.

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