Does race bias taint the death penalty?


originally by: New York Times
15th July 2011

David R. Dow attacks capital punishment for its statistical bias against minorities (Death Penalty, Still Racist and Arbitrary). Death penalty opponents have brought arbitrariness upon themselves.

In 1972 the Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to allow juries to decide arbitrarily whether a murderer would live or die. Reacting to this decision, a number of states enacted laws requiring the death penalty for all first-degree murders.

These laws assured that a first-degree murderer would die regardless of the race of the victim or defendant. They properly based punishment on the crime instead of the criminal.

A closely divided Supreme Court, with the hearty concurrence of those who now complain about the arbitrary nature of capital punishment, struck down these laws, making discretion an inescapable part of the process. The way to address the inequities claimed by Mr. Dow is to allow the automatic death penalty for first-degree murder.

JAMES A. DUEHOLM
Washington, July 9, 2011

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