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The Effects of Race on Sentencing in Capital Punishment Cases Throughout history minorities have been ill-represented in the criminal justice system particularly in cases where the possible outcome is death In early America blacks were lynched for the slightest violation of informal laws and many of these killings occured without any type of due process As the judicial system has matured minorities have found better representation but it is not completely unbiased In the past twenty years strict controls have been implemented but the system still has symptoms of racial bias This racial bias was first recognized by the Supreme Court in Fruman v Georgia 408 US 238 1972 The Supreme Court Justices decide that the death penalty was being handed out unfairly and according to Gest 1996 the Supreme Court felt the death penalty was being imposed freakishly and wantonly and most often on blacks Several years later in Gregg v Georgia 428 US 153 1976 the Supreme Court decided with efficient controls the death penalty could be used constitutionally Yet even with these various controls the system does not effectively eliminate racial bias Since Gregg v Georgia the total population of all 36 death rows has grown as has the number of judicial controls used by each state Of the 3122 people on death row 41 are black while 48 are white Gest 1996 41 This figure may be acceptable at first glance but one must take into account the fact that only 12 of the US population is black Smolowe 1991 68 Carolyn Snurkowski of the Florida attorney generals office believes that the disproportionate number of blacks on death row can be explained by the fact that Many black murders result from barroom brawls that wouldnt call for the death penalty but many white murders occur on top of another offense such as robbery As cited in Gest 1986 25 This may be true but the Washington Legal Foundation
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