Death Penalty And Discrimination Essay

1644 words - 7 pages

The Death Penalty: The Discrimination Within Throughout America's history, the death penalty has been applied disproportionately tot he poor and blacks. The death penalty, legal execution, has existed as long as has human culture. Capital Punishment, the death penalty, is punishment by death. This is the practice of the gas chamber, electrocution, lethal injection, hanging, or firing squad in the United States. In most cultures, this sentence is reserved for the most severe crimes-murder, violent sexual assault, and treason. But in some times and places, in both simple and sophisticated societies, punishments for many crimes have been abnormally severe, even including death for stealing a loaf of bread or writing derogatory songs about notables.In America's history black and poor defendants have always been sentenced to death and executed unfairly and out of balance in correspondence to their numbers. For example, of the 455 criminals executed for rape after 1930 in southern states, 405 were black (Monagle 15). The U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 recognized this discrimination when it ruled in Furman v. Georgia that courts were applying the death penalty optionally, in violation of the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments. Justice William O. Douglass stated: The discretion of judges and juries in imposing the death penalty enables the penalty to be selectively applied, feeding prejudices against the accused if he is poor and despised and lacks political clout, or if he is a member of a suspect or unpopular minority. (Latzer 235) This ruling, in essence, stopped all executions for several years. States, fearing that the Supreme Court would overturn death sentences on the basis of discrimination, temporarily discontinued executions and scurried to revise and reintroduce their death penalty statutes. By 1975, thirty-three states had revised their statutes, enabling them once again to execute criminals (Laurence xvii).At first, most legal experts applauded these changes and believed that they would reduce discriminatory capital sentencing. Now; however, some experts declare that these revisions and precautions have done little to diminish discrimination, and they argue that nearly fifty percent of the defendants on death row are black and nearly all of them are poor. In contrast, only about twelve percent of the general population is black, and only about fourteen percent is poor. A 1990 Government Accounting Office report found racial disparities in charging, sentencing, and the imposition of the death penalty (Russell 14).Black defendants have always been sentenced to death and executed far out of proportion to their numbers. This focus was took into mind when Anthony G. Amsterdam made this quote: There are times when even truths we hold self-evident require affirmation. For those who have invested our careers and our hopes in the criminal justice system, this is one of those times. Insofar as the basic principles that give value to our lives are in the...

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