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Sentenced to die: Too many innocent Blacks executed

Freddie Allen | 5/15/2014, 8:16 p.m.
Since 1973, more than 300 innocent defendants have been sentenced to death, largely because Blacks are overrepresented among murder convictions ...
The gurney in the death chamber of the Huntsville "Walls" Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit, Huntsville, Texas. Pat Sullivan

The DPIC reported that between 1973 and 2011, death sentence cases costs American taxpayers nearly $25 billion. People don’t mind paying for something if it’s positive and it works, said Dieter. The death penalty represents the complete opposite.

Even though the death penalty is only being used by a small cluster of states and counties, said Dieter, everybody’s paying for it.

According to The 2% Death Penalty report by the DPIC, just nine “counties accounted for 35% of the death sentences in 2012” and “fewer than 2 percent of the counties in the U.S. (59 out of 3,143) were responsible for all of the death sentences in 2012.”

Blacks account for roughly 13 percent of the population in the United States but nearly 42 percent of the prison population on death row, compared to Whites who make up 63 percent of the U.S. population and about 43 percent of the prisoners serving time on death row. Since 1976, 34 percent of prisoners executed have been Black and 56 percent were White.

In the 2011 study Struck by Lightning: The Continuing Arbitrariness of the Death Penalty Thirty-Five Years After Its Re-instatement in 1976, the DPIC said that, “One of the strongest determinants of who gets the death penalty is the race of the victim in the underlying murder.”

That is particularly true in Southern states, where most Blacks live.

“The odds of receiving the death penalty in Georgia were 4.3 times greater if the defendant killed a white person than if he killed a black person,” the report stated.

The report continued: “In Florida, for example, a defendant’s odds of receiving a death sentence is 4.8 times higher if the victim is White than if the victim is Black in similar cases. In Oklahoma the multiplier is 4.3, in North Carolina it is 4.4, and in Mississippi it is 5.5.”

According to The National Registry of Exonerations, Blacks account for 61 percent of those wrongfully convicted for sexual assault and 46 percent of exoneration for homicide compared to Whites who account for 33 percent of generations for sexual assault convictions and 39 percent of exonerations for homicide convictions.

The research on innocent defendants who receive the death penalty also revealed that “fewer than half of all defendants who are convicted of capital murder are ever sentenced to death in the first place.”

It continued, “It follows that the rate of innocence must be higher for convicted capital defendants who are not sentenced to death than for those who are. The net result is that the great majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of capital murder in the United States are neither executed nor exonerated. They are sentenced, or re-sentenced to prison for life, and then forgotten.”