A new study has found race and geography play a factor in capital punishment in Connecticut, bolstering the claims of seven death row inmates who say the system is both arbitrary and “infected by bias,” says the Hartford Courant. State officials have shot back with accusations that the public defender’s office is withholding a 4-year-old study on the same bias issues because it contradicts the recent one. Today, attorneys will argue on a motion by the state to dismiss the inmates’ habeas corpus petitions, which are based on the claims of racial and geographical bias.
The linchpin of the inmates’ lawyers’ case appears to be a commissioned study by a Yale Law School professor. He concluded that the capital punishment system is capricious and random; non-white defendants are treated more harshly than white defendants, especially in cases with white victims; and the so-called “egregiousness” of the killings seems to be irrelevant when it comes to who is sentenced to death. “In sum our findings do not support the statement that the death penalty is imposed only in the ‘worst of the worst’ cases,” John J. Donohue III wrote in his study, dated Nov. 30. The study cost $256,000 and was paid for with funds provided by Connecticut’s Public Defender Services Commission. Another study on the subject , which has not been released, was also commissioned by the Public Defender Services Commission.