Racial Disparities in Capital Sentencing: Prejudice and Discrimination in the Jury Room

Racial Disparities in Capital Sentencing: Prejudice and Discrimination in the Jury Room

Racial Disparities in Capital Sentencing: Prejudice and Discrimination in the Jury Room

Racial Disparities in Capital Sentencing: Prejudice and Discrimination in the Jury Room

Synopsis

Flexon presents an interdisciplinary perspective to the problem of racial disparities in capital case outcomes. In doing so, research from social and cognitive psychology concerning stereotypes and attitude influence were bridged with other empirical findings concerning racial disparities in capital sentencing. Specifically, the psychology of stereotypes and attitudes are used to help explain how racial discrimination can operate undetected among death qualified jurors while producing sentencing discrepancies. The introduction of a potential source of bias information concerning criminal justice and race also is offered. Results indicate that prejudicial ideas are likely operating to influence capital sentencing decisions.

Excerpt

Many scholars have addressed the issue of race and America’s death penalty. Some consider the matter closed believing that racial bias has tainted every stage in the process, while others challenge the efficacy of such claims arguing that legal factors explain racial differences in the administration of the punishment. In all probability, both positions have merit in different times and places. However, the purpose of this book is not to end that debate. Rather, the purpose of this work is to highlight how racial bias is possibly entering into the process of capital punishment administration by bridging empiricism from multiple disciplines. The position taken in this book, then, is that discrimination is likely taking place in a myriad of ways during the imposition of capital punishment as it likely is in everyday life. The focus of this work, then, is a matter of context dealing with the type of cases where discrimination is likely in play. Hopefully, this explanation will help explain how discrimination can persist despite efforts to suppress it. Though there are many perspectives to this issue, the intent here is to shed light on the psychological influences that operate to produce discrimination generally and from specifically potential capital jurors. As will be discussed in much more detail, this is a process very difficult to detect. The discussion that follows is part of a larger body of death penalty research on race and the death penalty. Hopefully, it will ignite further debate and compel scholars and practitioners to find solutions to what can be considered the worst form of discrimination—a discrimination that results in deliberate death.

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