Sunday, December 04, 2005

Death Penalty Diversion

The Washington Post reports: "Execution Still On Despite Racial Analysis"

What "racial analysis" could stop an execution? Did jurors deliberate, saying "we should execute this one, he's black"? Did the judge say that? The prosecutor? The janitor? No, the Post wonders how an execution could be scheduled when an academic study showed Maryland might not be executing enough white people.
Absent intervention by the courts or Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), [Wesley E.] Baker will be executed for the murder of Jane Tyson, who in 1991 was robbed in the parking lot of a Catonsville mall and then shot to death in front of her two grandchildren...

Baker would also be the first black man to be executed in Maryland since researchers documented sharp disparities -- racially and by jurisdiction -- in how the state's capital punishment statute is used. Death penalty opponents and the study's author say neither the legislature nor the courts have responded adequately to the findings, announced nearly three years ago.

The study, commissioned by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) in 2000, found that prosecutors were far more likely to seek the death penalty for black suspects charged with killing white victims, as Baker was. It also found that slayings in Baltimore County were far more likely to result in death sentences than were slayings in other jurisdictions.
Note that the study did not address the issue of Baker's guilt. In fact, the Post admits that his guilt is the one thing that isn't disputed:
It is undisputed that Baker and the other man, Gregory Lawrence, committed the robbery that led to Tyson's death. And Baker's attorneys do not claim that he is innocent of murder.
The study didn't even find evidence of discrimination, whether it would be relevant or not:
In announcing his findings, Paternoster said the explanation for the disparities rested with state's attorneys, not juries, but he was careful not to impugn the prosecutors' motives. He said that his analysis didn't mean "there is racial animus" by prosecutors, but rather that "the product of their action does result in racial disparity."
So, what have we learned here? Baker's guilt is undisputed and there isn't even an allegation of wrongdoing by any party in his case (or any other case), but he shouldn't be executed because there aren't racial quotas on death row.

For more on abusing statistics to find race, gender, and crime discrimination in death sentences, check out "End Discrimination: Execute White Female Shoplifters."

Update, Dec. 6th: Baker Executed

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