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Study: Race plays role in N.C. death penalty

Posted July 22, 2010

Death Row, Death Penalty, Execution

— A new study by two university researchers has found that someone convicted of killing a white person in North Carolina is three times more likely to be sentenced to death than someone who kills a black person.

Michael Radelet, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Glenn Pierce, a research scientist in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University in Boston, examined 15,281 homicides in North Carolina between 1980 and 2007, of which 368 resulted in death sentences.

They obtained information on all death row cases in which the victim was either black or white, and they looked for any additional factors, such as multiple victims or homicides accompanied by a rape, robbery or other felony, that might explain the disparity in death penalty sentencing.

These additional factors partially explained death penalty decisions, they said, but even after statistically controlling for their effect, race remained an important predictor of who was sentenced to death.

“It’s just kind of baffling that, in this day and age, race matters,” Radelet, one of the nation’s leading experts on the death penalty, said in a statement.

The study, which will be published in The North Carolina Law Review next year, is the first examination of the death penalty in North Carolina since state lawmakers passed the Racial Justice Act last year.

The law allows murder suspects and those already on death row to present statistical evidence of racial bias to ensure that the race of the defendant or victim doesn¹t play a key role in the sentence the defendant receives in death penalty cases.

“Given these findings, (we) would advocate continuous monitoring of the death penalty in North Carolina to see if patterns of racial bias change,” Radelet said.

61 Comments

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  • ajmac09 Jul 23, 12:56 p.m.

    Sneeziegal, I'm not worried about me being socially aware. I think I have a fare better understanding of the current world we are living in today than you do. Obviously your comment shows your ignorance and blindness regarding this subject. I would encourage you to open your mind up a little bit and try to see past the lies that you are believing. I'm not trying to pick a fight, and I'm definitely not saying this in any mean or hateful way. I just feel very strongly about this.

  • lfeeley Jul 23, 11:43 a.m.

    I'd like to see the age and gender distribution of the victims a long with race. If I were a DA I'd push for the death penalty harder if a young girl was murdered. This is pure conjecture but what if there was a significantly larger amount of black young girl victims. Numerous other factors could play into these results, there is a differance between cause and correlation.

  • kodac31 Jul 22, 7:28 p.m.

    This story came from the playbook of "RULES FOR RADICALS" ... This is simply just another way of trying to TRUMP UP THE RACE CARD~~! People are sick of that abused and overused race-card getting thrown around on EVERYTHING that doesn't go the left wing looney liberals way! Get over yourselves!

  • frankindollar Jul 22, 7:24 p.m.

    Personally, as a white person, I'm all for taking a bunch of white people that got life sentences for murder and putting them on death row to make the numbers balance out.

    I'd wager $1000 that I can think of a dozen other "factors" that the professors didn't factor in because they were either...

    #1) Blinded by their liberal goggles and didn't think of those factors
    and
    #2) Factors ignored because they were deemed to politically incorrect.

  • avidreader Jul 22, 6:59 p.m.

    Put them all to death for murder. That solves the problem.

  • floyd_lawson Jul 22, 6:55 p.m.

    So are they saying the killers are not following the liberal playbook? Or are they just pandering to the public? The DA goes for what penalty fits the criteria of each individual case not by what the public needs for the score-keeping. Unfortunately many murders and other heinous crimes don't qualify for the death penalty.

    I wish all killers and others would be executed instead of being returned to prison as soon as guilt is proven, who cares what color they are?

  • CombatMed Jul 22, 6:46 p.m.

    Moral of the story........just don't do it. That way, you'll never be in a position to even have to argue whether race plays a role. We don't even use capital punishment enough as it is.

  • KRivenbark Jul 22, 6:44 p.m.

    What difference does it make, they don't follow through with any of them so they are all safe, black, white, red, or yellow.

  • frankindollar Jul 22, 6:41 p.m.

    Yawn. Yep more liberal bias from professors payed out of public pockets. Academia, what a pile steaming bile.

    Could it possibly be that the vast majority of black murder victims were killed in drug wars and inter-gang activity? I would be less inclined to give the perp a death penalty if the victim "had it coming".

    In contrast if the murdered person was random or just minding their own business at the time then I'm going to vote to fry the perp.

  • Liberal Lion Jul 22, 6:31 p.m.

    I always knew this state was controlled by republican district atty.

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