Press Release: LANDMARK NORTH CAROLINA DEATH PENALTY STUDY FINDS DRAMATIC RACIAL BIAS
P.O. Box 10808
Raleigh, NC 27605
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 16, 2001
Chris Fitzsimon 919-821-9270
Jack Boger 919-843-9288
Dr. Isaac Unah 919-962-6383
LANDMARK NORTH CAROLINA DEATH PENALTY STUDY FINDS DRAMATIC RACIAL BIAS
Raleigh, N.C. -- The most in-depth and detailed study of race and the death penalty in North Carolina's history shows clearly that race infects and undermines the capital punishment system in the state. The study, released today by the Common Sense Foundation and the North Carolina Council of Churches, finds that defendants whose victims are white are 3.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants whose victims are non-white.
"Sadly, this study shows that skin color still plays a major role in deciding who lives and who dies in our criminal justice system," said Jack Boger, Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and principal director of the study. "Despite a generation of legal and cultural efforts to eliminate discrimination, these results show that racial bias still dramatically affects the most final of judgments - who gets the death penalty."
In 1987, Boger represented a Georgia death row inmate before the United States Supreme Court in the most famous case concerning race and capital punishment. In the case, the Court accepted the results of an in-depth study of the Georgia capital punishment system that showed that the race of the victim played a role in who received the death penalty. The Court ruled against Boger's client, saying evidence of racial discrimination should be addressed by state legislatures.
In this North Carolina study, researchers collected data on 113 factors in 502 cases from 1993 to 1997 using a 33-page data collection instrument designed in consultation with Dr. David Baldus from the University of Iowa. Baldus is recognized as the national expert in the field and was the author of the Georgia study.
Data was collected from court records found in the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the state's trial courts, as well as the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Department of Corrections. Guidance on use of these data sources came from North Carolina 's Institute of Government, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Department of Corrections, and other state criminal justice agencies.
Dr. Isaac Unah of UNC-Chapel Hill was the principal investigator in the study and came to one inescapable conclusion. "No matter how the data was analyzed, the race of the victim always emerged as an important factor in who received the death penalty," Unah said.
The study's findings will be presented to the North Carolina General Assembly, where bills calling for a moratorium on executions have been introduced in the House and Senate.
"This study is clear. Our death penalty system
values black lives less than white lives," said Chris Fitzsimon, Executive
Director of the Common Sense Foundation. "Our policymakers should halt
all executions until we can be sure we have addressed these deeply troubling
# # #
Return to Press Releases