The findings come as many in
For the study, touted as one of the most
comprehensive examinations to date of the modern administration of the
death penalty in
The researchers looked at many factors, such as the number of victims and whether other crimes such as burglaries and robberies were committed during the homicide. They also tried to consider similar homicide cases.
Their analysis of the data showed that the odds of receiving a death sentence in cases where the victim was white were 2.96 times higher than the odds in cases with black victims.
"It's just kind of baffling that, in this day and age, race matters," Radelet said.
"I think over the years, the white-victim cases seem
to get more attention in the criminal justice system," Ferguson said.
"They seem to get more attention from the district attorneys and the
juries. The Legislature has made it clear that if we're going to have a
death penalty in
And last summer, the Legislature passed the Racial Justice Act, one of only two laws of its kind in the nation. The law allows judges, for the first time, to consider statistical evidence that suggests race was a key factor in prosecutors' seeking, or a court imposing, the death penalty on a disproportionate number of people from a racial group.
Current death row inmates have until
The study released Thursday will help bolster the case of death penalty critics, who for years have complained that capital punishment is applied with bias, intentional or not.
"This definitely vindicates the Legislature's
passing of the Racial Justice Act," said Tye Hunter, executive director
of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in
Radelet, who has studied the administration of the death penalty in 10 states, including
"It turns out the racial biases tend to be lower where there are not as many death sentences," Radelet said.
"I strongly disagree with the implication that prosecutors base their decision to seek the ultimate punishment on the race of the victim or the defendant," Edwards said in an e-mail message. "Prosecutors do not look at skin color. We consider lots of things, but race is not one of them."
Radelet and Pierce, the study authors, encouraged "continuous monitoring of the death penalty in
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