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The Color of Capital Punishment

Few issues in America illustrate the racial divide between whites and African Americans as capital punishment. An illustrative case is the verdict in the O.J. Simpson case, one after which many African Americans cheered while a majority of whites shook their heads at what they viewed as an incredulous verdict of innocent. Capital punishment or the ôdeath penalty,ö after a brief ban by Congress, was reintroduced in the Supreme CourtÆs landmark decision in Furman v. Georgia (Stevenson 16). Since that time those who have been sentenced to the death penalty has risen to an all-time high (Minter 1). The increase in application of the death penalty makes the issue one of great controversy in American society. Adding to this controversy is the fact that a disproportional number of African Americans is on death row compared to their proportion in society. As Ross provides, ôDespite the fact that African Americans comprise only about 12 percent of the national population, 40 percent or 1,117 of the prisoners under sentence of death in America are African Americanö (32). If capital punishment had a color in American society, the color would be Black. AmericaÆs willingness to sanction homicide through capital punishment must end, primarily because it is applied in an arbitrary and prejudiced manner.

When the Supreme Court reauthorized the use of the death penalty in 1972, Chief Justice Warren Burger promoted the reintroduction of the punishment by arguing that ôstates would recognize that ædeath is different,Æàsomething that would shield the modern death penalty from the historic problems of unfairness, arbitrariness, racism and discriminationö (Stevenson 16). To this end, the ôdeath is differentö doctrine has not removed these historic problems as the numbers of poor and minorities on death row significantly outnumbers whites. For example, in Alabama, 43 percent of the 117 death row inmates are African American but blac...

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The Color of Capital Punishment. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:10, May 28, 2020, from