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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 According to Professor Steven Goldstein of Florida State University There are so many discretionary stages whether the prosecutor decides to seek the death penalty whether the jury recommends it whether the judge gives it As cited in Smolowe 1991 68 It is in these discretionary stages that racial biases can infect the system of dealing out death sentences Smolowe 1991 shows this infection by giving examples of two cases decided in February of 1991 both in Columbus The first example is a white defendant named James Robert Caldwell who was convicted of stabbing his 10 year old son repeatedly and raping and killing his 12 year old daughter The second example is of a black man Jerry Walker convicted of killing a 22-year-old white man while robbing a convenience-store Caldwells trial lasted three times as long as Walkers and Caldwell
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