Columnist Disputes Stevens On Bias In Death Penalty


Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby contests retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ assertion in a recent book review that that the “murder of black victims is treated as less culpable than the murder of white victims.'' says Jacoby: “It is a passionately held article of faith among death-penalty opponents that capital punishment is racially unjust. But the facts stubbornly say otherwise.”

Since the death penalty resumed in the 1970s, white murderers have been more likely than black murderers to be sentenced to death, and more likely to actually be executed. Though blacks commit approximately half of all murders in the U.S., they accounted for only 390, or 35 percent, of the 1,136 murderers executed from 1977 through 2008. Jacoby quotes quthor Charles Lane in “Stay of Execution: Saving the Death Penalty from Itself,” as saying that the fact that the murder of a black victim is less likely to be punished with death is another way of saying that fewer blacks are put to death by the state. Concludes Jacoby: That reflects not racism, but racial progress.

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