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Racial Bias in Death Penalty and Justice System

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Vicky Chan

RHE 306

Carolyn Davis

2016/4/24

Racial Bias In Death Penalty And Justice System

We can say that the biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based organization where African-Americans are more likely targeted and punished in a much more hostile way than white people. For instance, color people are more likely to receive longer sentences, death penalty and in prison. According to the numbers, the prison populations in United States are unequal. Black residents are imprisoned at a much higher rate than white Americans, which prompted civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander to call the system “The New Jim Crow.” Like this, there are a lot of other examples of racial bias in our justice system nowadays. The hottest issue will be the death penalty, capital punishment, or execution, which is government-sanctioned punishment by death. While argument against the death penalty have categorize from the biblical to the economic, unavoidably, the effect of race in the application has become a particularly prominent of the death-penalty discourse. To be more specific, there are two cases can prove how our justice systems are racial bias.

  The first one will be the case of McCleskey v. Kemp. McCleskey, a black man, was sentenced to die for the robbery of a furniture store and the killing of a white police officer during the course of the robbery. The reason why this case is important is because it set the stage for more than 20 years of dramatically increasing racial disparities within the criminal justice system. McClesky provided the evidences from Professor David Baldus of the University of Iowa said that white-victim cases are roughly eleven times more likely than black-victim cases to result in a sentence of death. However, this is not the end to the inequalities. At every level of the justice system, data show not everyone whose case goes in front of a jury is evaluated equally. I think sometimes even it is unequal, how many people can stand in front of the judge to say it and prove they are wrong. Again, the race of victim, defendant and jurors disparities has been found in many different cases. As stated by Leigh Bienen: “The criminal justice system is controlled and dominated by whites, although the recipients of punishment, including the death penalty, are disproportionately black.” He believes that death penalty is use to control the whole state and the system is control by white which can transfer to the message that white control over blacks.

The next one will be the case of Trayvon Martin who was a 17 years old African American high school student. In the case, when Martin was shoot by Zimmerman (a 28-year-old mixed race Hispanic man), he was unarmed. According to Zimmerman, the reason why he killed Martin is because of self-defense that I think is totally wrong. In my opinion, I believe it was because racist. Because the color of Martin, Zimmerman thinks he is dangerous and hazardous. However, contrast to what he said in front of the judge ( he was too scared), Zimmerman knew the police were on the way. They arrived only a minute or so after the gunshot. However, he still killed Martin, which only makes him a reckless fool instead of a murderer. Because the fight happened in a public area surrounded by townhouses at close range and was hardly the place or time to start shooting. But still, the jury decided that he acted properly in self-defense. There are three mistakes that Zimmerman has made: the first is he was inferring that Martin was Burglar. He was basis when describes Martin’s race and clothing to the dispatcher after they ask him. The second one is, Zimmerman should stop after what he have done as a neighborhood could do. Instead of just called the police, he packing a concealed firearm, go out and started walking after Martin. The last mistake is, Zimmerman’s utter failure to imagine how his behavior looked to Martin. He was so confident that he didn't think if Marin was innocent and saw him as a creepy stalker. From this case, I hope people can give more attention to teenagers. In addition, ProPublica point out that the difference between police killings for white and black teenagers is stark. Black teenage men are 21 times as likely to be the victim of a reported police killing as white teenage men. It is sad but from the studies and the statistics, also the interviewed with many kids we know that: white middle-class kids get a break--that they are more likely to be kept at home, they are less likely to get the stiff sentences, they are more likely to be given opportunities to continue their education.

Like always, when we have an opinion, there’s always something against or opposite to it. People like Nazgol Ghandnoosh have found that engrained racial biases about who is most likely to commit crimes affect the severity of punishments. To make it easier to understand, it means when more whites think African Americans and Latinos commit a higher proportion of crime, the more they support harsh criminal justice policies. Not only in death penalty but also other policies like mandatory minimum sentencing, and sentencing juveniles as adults. Nonetheless, I disagree with it. First of all, there’s actually has data that shows not everyone who stands in front of a judge is sentenced equally and not everyone’s case is prosecuted equally. Like The majority of people serving life sentences at the federal level are black, and almost half of those serving life sentences nationally are black. Once they arrested, they are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trail than whites. “Between December 2007 and September 2011, the sentences for black male offenders are almost 20 percent longer than sentences for white male offenders,” according to data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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