RACE AND THE DEATH PENALTY In 1977 the unjust law of capital punishment was once again enforced in the American justice system. The use of Capital punishment has instigated many discussions among American criminologists. The use of the death penalty as a form of justice has been banned from many countries and states but there are still a few American states that believe in this form of punishment. Some of them include Texas, Georgia and Virginia. There have been many academic articles that have discussed the general pros and cons of the death penalty, but there is one specific issue that stands out from the others. This issue includes racism and how its implicated in the capital punishment system.
I will be summarizing and analyzing the key point as well as the rhetorical features of three articles written by researchers in the justice system. There have been numerous debates about the involvement of racism in the death penalty system. Michael Kroll has been a part of these debates by revealing flaws and negative facts initiated by racism in the death penalty system. He wrote the article called “Buckle Of The Death Belt.” This article deals with the specific judicial district of Chattahoochee, which is located in the state of Georgia. This state is also know as The Nations Executioner for its relatively high number of prisoners on death row per year.
Another article called “Racial Disparities in Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions 1988-1994,” written by the subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights, deals with the underlying principle that racial minorities are being prosecuted under federal death penalty law far beyond their proportion in the general population or the population of criminal offenders. The third article is called “The Death Penalty in Black and White: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides,” written by Richard C. Dieter. This report releases two new studies which show that the continuing injustice of racism in the application of the death penalty. All three articles are written for the general public and can be very informative for many reasons. I will focus on the key points of the articles, as well the important style and features of the articles, which makes the article more convincing to the audience.
For these articles the main argument that the writer is trying to portray is racism does occur in the justice system and should be recognized and changed. In the first article written by Michael Kroll, he states that the Chattahoochee Judicial District in Georgia is a microcosm of the national disgrace. Nearly 20 years after the supreme court held the death penalty as being unconstitutional, largely because of racial discrimination, the death penalty in America continues to reflect the worst part of the judicial system: racism, unequal treatment of the poor, and abuse of discretion by prosecutors and other politicians seeking higher positions. By the end of 1990, 20 people were imposed by the death penalty (Radelet). Out of those twenty, more than half were black men, who were tried by all-white juries.
The District Attorney used his discretion to remove every black potential juror. While black people account for 65 percent of all homicide victims, the DA seeks the death penalty almost exclusively in white victims cases. Families of white murder victims are treated with dignity and respect by the DAs office, while black victims families are abused or ignored. The DA has sought the death penalty in nearly 40 percent of the cases where the defendant was black and the victim white, in 32 percent of the cases where both defendant and victim were white, in just 6 percent of the cases where both the defendant and victim were black and never where the defendant was white and the victim black (Radelet). Kroll emphasizes the fact that by executing more than any other state, 80 percent of them black, Georgia has earned the title,” The Nations Executioner.” The history of the death penalty in America can be seen in Georgias cases: Furman vs.
Georgia (1972)  which resulted in the death penalty due to racial discrimination (Douglas), Gregg vs. Georgia (1976), Coker vs. Georgia (1977)  as well as many others were seen to have sentenced the defendant to death despite strong evidence that race of victim is the most important variable in predicting who will be sentenced to death. Krolls argument about the presence of racism in the decision of the DA is strongly supported by the statistics and facts, but racist action is very difficult to prove since racism is a feeling, and it is very difficult to obtain strong evidence of the feelings of people. Although sometimes the evidence is present, it is disregarded.
For example in four different capital trials in Georgia the defense layer referred to his client as “nigger” (Kroll). Even after these derogatory comments, no action was taken by the court to ensure an equal trial for the prosecutor and defendant. Even so, Krolls logical approach to the case gives a very convincing argument. He does this by providing graphs and charts that show clearly the trends that prove his point. These are some of the important graphs and charts, which he presents in his article: 1) Black Capital Defendants Convicted In Chattahoochee Judicial District Through 1990* Defendant Date of Sentence DA’s Discretionary Juror Strikes Jury Composition Verdict White Black White Black Mulligan 11/4/76 4 4 12 0 death Bowden 12/9/76 0 10 12 0 death Graves 2/17/77 4 4 12 0 life Gates 9/1/77 unavailable unavailable 12 0 death Brooks 11/18/77 6 5 12 0 death Hance 12/16/78 1 9 11 1 death Lewis 7/19/79 1 8 12 0 death Hance 5/12/84 1 7 11 1 death Gary 8/27/86 5 5 9 3 death Bright 7/13/90 3 7 8 4 death * The DA sought the death penalty 38.7 percent of the time when the defendant was black and the victim white, 32.4 percent when both defendant and victim were white, 5.9 percent when both defendant and victim were black, and never when the defendant was white and the victim black; 2) *(Statistical research for Figures 3, 4, 5 and 6 provided by Michael L.
Radelet, PH.D., University of Florida, Gainesville) Towards the end of his article he shifts his focus to a broader view of the United States. For example, in Philadelphia, a single judge is responsible for sentencing 26 people to death- two of whom were white. Secondly, A Native American in California had his original death sentence reversed because of prevailing racism in the sentencing county, and was acquitted at retrial in a different county. Of the 148 people executed nationwide since 1977, nearly 90 percent were sentenced for killing white people, though black people continue to be victims of murder at a rate six times greater than white people (Ibid). Kroll presents a very disturbing fact that since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s, not a single white person has been executed for taking the life of a black person.
By stating …