Blacks and the Death Penalty Essay

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Dana W. Walker Professor James R. Eisenberg CJ 370 April 29, 2004 A Debate in Capital Punishment: Blacks and the Death Penalty In the United States, approximately 13,000 people have been officially put to death since the colonial period. During the 1930s, up to 150 people were executed per year. Due to the lack of support of the death penalty from the public, the rate went almost to zero by 1967. The United States Supreme Court banned the death penalty in 1972 because of their decision on Furman v Georgia, and then it was later authorized for continuation in 1976 due to their ruling on Gregg v Georgia. The book, The Death Penalty in America, provides a table from 1995; the total number of blacks on death row at that time was 1,246 versus 1,470, the total number of whites (Bedau 65-66). One thing to keep in mind is that blacks make up only 12.8% of our total population (D’Alessio & Stolzberg). Racism is a hateful word. Many people look the other way and deny its existence. But not only does it exist; it subsists in one of the most sensitive areas of our judicial system, capital punishment. Many Americans believe that race is an important factor in determining who will be sentenced to death and who will receive a lesser punishment for the same crime. Research on the capital sentencing patterns over the past 20 years has shown that race may determine the verdict of life or death in the state courts. This topic has created controversy in America and in the criminal justice system. At the beginning of the twentieth century, most black Americans lived in the southern states. These states were white-supremacy states. Black Americans did not vote, and they were suppressed and oppressed in countless ways. The criminal justice system in the South was no friend of the southern blacks. Gerald C. Brandon, a southern white lawyer from Mississippi, told

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