Thursday, July 20, 2006
From DPIC and rand.org: A recent RAND Corporation study of the federal death penalty from 1995 to 2000 found no evidence of racial bias. Even though the investigators found that the death penalty was more often sought against defendants who murdered white victims, researchers ultimately concluded that the characteristics of the crime, not the racial characteristics of the victim or the defendant, could be used to make accurate predictions of whether federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty.
The study found that the likelihood of a decision to seek the death penalty rose for murders that were particularly heinous – usually involving a number of aggravating circumstances such as the killing of several victims, sexual abuse of the victim, the killing of an elderly person or a child, premeditated murders where there was extensive planning, killings in which the victim was set on fire, and murders in which the victim was mutilated or dismembered.
"Our findings support the idea that race was not a factor in the decision to seek the death penalty once we adjusted for the circumstance of the crime," noted Stephen Klein, a RAND senior research scientist and co-leader of the project. “We were surprised by how well we could predict the decision to seek the death penalty based on the nature of the crime.” Rest of Article . . . [Mark Godsey]