Racial Bias and the Death Penalty

The issue of racial bias in death sentencing has long been a significant concern in the system of capital punishment. Many studies across the United States have found the race of the defendant (combined with the race of the victim) to be a salient predictor of juror decision making in capital cases, with Black defendants convicted of killing White victims to be most likely to receive the death sentence. Racial bias in capital trials appears to be correlated with the following: (a) the ethnic background of the district attorney pursuing the death penalty; (b) the racial breakdown of the jurors in capital cases; (c) jurors' failure to understand jury instructions in death penalty trials; and (d) jurors' attitudes toward the death penalty and their death ...

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