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Throughout American history the death penalty has fallen disproportionately on racial minorities From 1930 the first year for which statistics are readily available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics to 1967 3859 persons were executed under civil jurisdiction in the United States During this period of nearly half a century over half 54 of those executed were black 45 percent were white and the remaining one percent were members of other racial groups Between 1930 and 1976 nearly 90 of those executed for the crime of rape in this country were African-Americans Between 1930 and 1996 4220 prisoners were executed in the US more than half 53 were black Currently about 50 of those on the nations death rows are from minority populations representing 20 of the countrys population In 1972 the US Supreme Court overturned existing death penalty statutes in part because of the danger that those being selected to die were chosen out of racial prejudice Legislatures adopted the death sentencing procedures that were supposed to eliminate the influence of race from the death sentencing process That was one of the grounds on which the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in Furman However evidence of racial discrimination in the application of capital punishment continues Nearly 40 of those executed since 1976 have been black although blacks constitute only 12 of the population And in almost every death penalty case the race of the victims is white Last year alone 89 of the death sentences carried out involved white victims even though 50 of the homicides in America have been black victims Of all the executions that have occurred since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 only one has involved a white defendant for the murder of a black person Racial minorities are being prosecuted under federal death penalty laws far beyond their proportion in the general population and the population of the criminal offenders Race of the
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