You are on page 1of 2

Page |1 John Christmann 2/24/2012 Social Problems Race and the Death Penalty Outline In this term paper

I am going to research capital punishment. The aspect of capital punishment I am going to investigate is the relation between race and the death penalty. There is supposedly a correlation between the race/ethnicity of the defendant and the rate at which that specific race/ethnicity is sentenced to death. I will investigate this topic by reading specific court cases like Furman vs. Georgia. I will also make use of several peer-reviewed articles that provide data regarding a correlation between race/ethnicity and the rate of dead penalty convictions. Many of these articles are about situations in specific states, so I will use certain states as case studies; but I will also use some nation-wide statistics as well. Specifically, I will be investigating the link between the types of crime committed by each race/ethnicity and the rate of death penalty convictions. In my preliminary reading of some of the data, I have found a link between the race of the victim in a death penalty case and the race of the defendant executed. There seems to be a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic defendants being executed for crimes against White victims compared to White defendants being executed for crimes against Black and Hispanic victims. Another aspect of this issue I will be researching is the sheer proportion of Black and Hispanic inmates compared to White inmates on death row; the population of both groups added together still do not make up for the population of White people in the USA. There seems to be a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic death row inmates (as a ratio of their population) compared to White death row inmates. The preliminary figures Ive seen for the numbers on death row are somewhere in the ballpark of 43% White, 42% Black, and 12% Hispanic. This may seem somewhat normal, until one looks at the overall population statistics, which are somewhere in the ballpark of 63.7% White, 12.2%

Page |2 Black, and 16.3% Hispanic. When one compares both sets of data, there is an obvious problem. I am not going to posit an explanation for this problem, yet. I wont assign a certain cause to this correlation, at least until all the data have been thoroughly looked through, and maybe not even then. A specific problem, which I referred to earlier, that I will be looking at will be the disproportionate number of Black convicted murderers sentenced to death for interracial murders (Black on White) compared to White convicted murderers sentenced to death for interracial murders (White on Black). From an initial glance, Ive seen a very striking disparity (especially when compared to the population statistics cited above); according to the data, so far, 18 White convicted murderers have been put to death for interracial murders (White on Black), while 252 Black convicted murderers have been put to death for interracial murders (Black on White). Its difficult, in this outline of my paper, to assign a cause for this discrepancy, so I wont attempt to do so. One last aspect of this issue I will investigate is the disproportionate number of White chief district attorneys compared to the number Black chief district attorneys (from here on I will refer to them as DAs) in states that practice the death penalty. The numbers I have seen in the data so far show 98% of chief DAs in death penalty states are White, while only 1% of the chief district attorneys in death penalty states are Black. This statistic may will be part of a possible explanation for the discrepancies presented above. Obviously, this wont be the only possible cause considered, nor will it necessarily be the chief cause, but I will consider the data nonetheless. So, in this paper I will investigate the correlation between race/ethnicity and the death penalty in the United States. I will specifically research the numbers of White convicts being executed for interracial (White on Black) murders, compared to the number of Black convicts being executed for interracial (Black on White) murders. I will also be looking into the proportional differences in overall population and death row population for White, Black, and Hispanic death row inmates. The last item I will research will be the disproportionate number of White to Black chief DAs in death penalty states.