Hot Potato: Food for Thought
This Won't Hurt a Bit
It's Not Fair
1997 August 11

Most of those sentenced to die are poor or black, often both. Most of them did not have benefit of proper legal counsel before and during their trial. Many are also of subnormal intelligence.

Statistics continue to show that the most reliable way to get sentenced to death is to be black and to kill a white. Being white or killing a black is much less likely to lead to the death sentence. So it's pretty clear that there is a big dose of racism at work here.

Nobody has found a way to assure that the death penalty is applied without racial bias, and it is hard to imagine any system that is likely to work given the ingrained racism in American society. This situation only exacerbates the simmering resentment of blacks about their treatment by a criminal justice system that is clearly not color-blind.

Finally, there is the question of who actually dies. Since the resumption of the death penalty about 20 years ago, the number of people being executed each year has always been considerably smaller than the number of people sentenced to die in that year. How does it happen that some are killed and many are not?

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