Study: Racial Bias in NC Use of Death Penalty
A new study shows people are more likely to be sentenced to death in North Carolina if they're found guilty of murdering a white person rather than a black person. University of Colorado Sociology Professor Michael Radelet examined 28 years of data going back to 1980. He looked at how many victims the defendant was accused of killing and whether there were other felony charges like rape and robbery associated with the murder. "Even after taking into account the severity of the murder, those who killed whites were still about three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill blacks," says Radelet. Radelet says other studies have shown similar biases in several states like Florida, Georgia and Ohio. Radelet and his co-author Glenn Pierce of Northeastern University decided to undertake the study last year after the General Assembly passed the Racial Justice Act. That law allows defendants to use statistical evidence to show race may have played a role in their sentencing. Death row inmates have another two weeks to file challenges based on the law. Radelet expects his study and others that have drawn similar conclusions to be tapped. "As prosecutors have argued there's no race of defendant difference on who's sentenced to death in North Carolina," says Radelet. "Defense attorneys, on the other hand, will be very interested that there's very strong race of victim effects." Several defense attorneys, prosecutors and lawmakers in North Carolina have already requested Radelet's study.