of those in which the victim was black -- nearly a 3-1 difference. This racial disparity persisted even when the researchers conducted a multivariate analysis that simultaneously controlled for more than 150 aggravating and mitigating factors ( Paternoster 1991:132-133).
Turning to the 190 cases in which the prosecutors had sought the death penalty, Baldus et al. found that Georgia juries also were more likely to impose the death penalty on a murderer whose victim was white than on one whose victim was black. 2 However, jurors' racial biases appeared much less pronounced than those of prosecutors in determining the fate of the offender, leading the researchers to conclude that "[t]he leading source of race-of-victim disparities in Georgia's death sentencing system for defendants convicted of murder at trial is clearly the decision to advance the case to a penalty trial" ( Baldus et al., 1983:710, note 131).
These findings, which Baldus and his co-researchers expanded on and reconfirmed in subsequent analyses of the Georgia data in 1985 and 1990, were an early and significant contribution to the growing body of post-Furman research that indicated the persistence of racial disparities in capital sentencing, despite reformed capital punishment statutes ( Paternoster 1991:23).
There appear to be two principal explanations for Georgia's generally low death-sentencing rates. The first is that prosecutors do not routinely seek death sentences in death-eligible cases. In fact, in only forty percent of the cases in which the jury convicted the defendant of a murder involving a statutory aggravating circumstance did the prosecution even seek a death sentence. Although the Georgia statute states that there "shall" be a penalty trial in all cases resulting in a murder conviction, in practice a penalty trial will not occur unless the prosecution so requests. The impact of this exercise of prosecutorial discretion to forego a penalty trial is enormous. When penalty trials do occur, Georgia juries impose death sentences in fifty-five percent of the cases; among the more aggravated cases the death-sentencing rates are particularly high.
Georgia's relatively low overall post-Furman death-sentencing rate also reflects a very low death-sentencing rate in black victim cases. Specifically, the rate is .06 (15/246) for black victim cases versus .24 (85/348) for white victim cases. This disparity is particularly apparent when pros
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Capital Punishment in the United States:A Documentary History. Contributors: Bryan Vila - Editor, Cynthia Morris - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 208.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.