Study of LA Homicides, Executions Shows ‘Stark Disparities’ Based on Race


A review of Louisiana homicide and death penalty cases going back to 1976 found that convicted murderers who killed black males were less likely to be executed than those who killed other victims, according to a study forthcoming in the Loyola University of New Orleans Journal of Public Interest Law.

The data analyzed by the study authors, Frank Baumgartner and Tim Lyman, demonstrate what they conclude are stark disparities in the use of the death penalty, depending on the race and gender of the victim. “Young black males have extremely high rates of homicide victimization compared to other categories,” the authors write. “However, the death penalty is used only very rarely in those cases where the victim is a black male.”

The study found that the rate of capital punishment per homicide gradually declines from white females to white males, to black females, and finally to black males—who make up 61 percent of all homicide victims in Louisiana. Inmates convicted of killing black males are executed at a rate that is 1/48th the execution rate of those convicted of killing white women.

“Are the racial tendencies in the application of Louisiana's death penalty new, or do they reflect long-standing patterns?” the authors ask. They conclude that the study, which includes a review of the history of executions in Louisiana dating back to 1722, shows that there has been a longstanding correlation between race and execution rates.

Read the study here.

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