Latinos Executed in the United States Between 1975 and 1995
The history of executions in the United States is a story shaped by race and ethnicity of the offender (and victim), as well as various other factors at different points in time and space. Additionally, to debunk historical myths about racial and ethnic differences in death sentence outcomes in the United States, one needs to treat each group accordingly.
In a non-death penalty study, Zatz (1984) found that prior record, type of offense, especially homicide and rape, and mode of disposition (but not race and ethnicity of defendant) are of special importance in distinguishing between sentence lengths for Chicanos and members of other race and ethnic groups.
Zatz (1984:165) also found that prior record was [used primarily against Chicanos, perhaps because they are seen as specializing in drug trafficking from Mexico.] Furthermore, based on her determinate sentencing study, where the [dangerousness] of an offender was most ambiguous, Chicanos received longer prison sentences than Caucasians or African Americans. Kelly (1976), though, found that Chicanos (and Native Americans) convicted of homicide received lighter sentences than Caucasians and African Americans. This trend, however, may have changed historically, given the various recent threatening issues/events (e.g., immigration, job security).
Additionally, as Zatz (1984) points out, Latinos, like African Americans, have fewer financial resources with which to hire a private attorney than do Caucasians. In a related issue, LaFree (1985) found that