Capital Punishment and Latino Offenders: Racial and Ethnic Differences in Death Sentences

By Martin G. Urbina | Go to book overview
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1. At the practical level, until recently, it was difficult to identify a population of criminal defendants that included sufficient numbers of Latinos/as. At the ideological level, Hawkins (1994:105) attributes the inattention to ethnic group differences in legal sanctions to [biases and themes inherent in extant theories of social control in the United States.]

2. For a discussion of the origin as well as the social, economic, and political significance of language (terms) identification, see Acuna (1988), Oboler (1995), and Rodriguez and Cordero-Gusman (1992).

3. According to Blumstein (1982:1264), [the differential involvement of blacks as arrestees, particularly for the offenses of homicide and robbery accounts for 80% of the disproportionality between black and white incarceration rates.] This suggests that African Americans will be incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates than Caucasians in areas where African Americans have disproportionately higher rates of arrest for serious and violent acts than Euro-Americans.

4. Based on stratification theories, racial differences in imprisonment are usually created by the following three conditions of the legal process that afford Caucasian offenders less severe sanctions than African Americans, even among individuals committing similar types of acts: (1) racial discrimination may take place overtly in legal decisions, with judges and other officials often granting Euro-American defenders more lenient dispositions than African Americans (Davis, 1969; Quinney, 1970a); (2) class biases enter into the legal processing of cases in terms of the economic resources required to obtain an effective criminal defense; and (3) racial discrimination in legal processing is created by organizational or institutional aspects of the legal system that have the consequences of ensuring that minority defendants receive harsher dispositions than Euro-Americans (Lizotte, 1978; Swigert and Farrell, 1977).

5. The argument for proportionality involves three steps: [the State's sanctions against proscribed conduct should take a punitive form; that is, visit deprivations in a manner that expresses censure or blame the severity of a sanction expresses the stringency of the blame and hence, sanctions should be arrayed according to the degree of blameworthiness (i.e., seriousness) of the conduct] (von Hirsch, 1993:15).

6. Seriousness has two major elements: harm and culpability (von Hirsch, 1981). Harm can be measured by the typical impact of the conduct on an individual's living-standard, and culpability by the conduct's degree of purposefulness or carelessness (von Hirsch, 1993).

7. According to von Hirsch (1993:106), [it is not necessary to seek and try to reflect precisely a social consensus.] A substantial degree of consensus has been found in the ranking of criminal behavior, and there was little variation in response among different racial, occupational, and educational subgroups (von Hirsch, 1981).

8. According to von Hirch (1981), the reason for treating the first offense less seriously is that recidivism alters the degree of culpability that may be ascribed to the defendant. In assessing a first offender's culpability, it ought to be borne in mind that the offender was, at the first, the individual who committed the act, only one of a large audience to whom the law impersonally addressed its prohibitions.

9. From a predictive perspective, the more often an offender has offended in the past, the


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Capital Punishment and Latino Offenders: Racial and Ethnic Differences in Death Sentences


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