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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 158083 Find in a Library
Title: Racial Justice Act of 1994: Undermining Enforcement of the Death Penalty Without Promoting Racial Justice
Journal: University of Dayton Law Review  Volume:20  Issue:2  Dated:(Winter 1995)  Pages:655-697
Author(s): D E Lungren; M L Krotoski
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 43
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article argues that the proposed Racial Justice Act of 1994 (RJA), which its supporters claimed would promote racial justice in the administration of the death penalty, would undermine enforcement of the death penalty without promoting racial justice.
Abstract: If the RJA were enacted, a capital defendant would be allowed to present statistics from unrelated cases to suggest that race was a factor in the decision to seek or to impose the death sentence. Once the defendant makes this bare statistical showing, prosecutors would have a heavy burden to rebut the showing. If the rebuttal is not successfully made, the death penalty could not be imposed. The RJA would also permit a new round of litigation, unrelated to the facts of the murder and the individual background characteristics of the offender, to be used to determine whether the death penalty should be enforced. The RJA was finally dropped in the interest of gaining congressional consideration of the 1994 Crime Bill. This article explains the major consequences the RJA would have had, not only for the enforcement of the death penalty but also for the criminal justice system. One section of the article reviews the history of the RJA, including the 1994 debate during the 103rd Congress. Another section identifies fundamental, inherent flaws with the RJA that were not amenable to compromise or corrective amendment. This includes the major change in focus from a system of individualized justice and case-specific fairness to quota-based "equivalence" premised on the use of statistics from unrelated cases. Section IV highlights other serious ramifications of the RJA on the criminal justice system. This includes an explanation as to why the RJA is an anti-death penalty bill that would establish a legal bias and presumption against the death penalty in capital litigation. The concluding section is a section-by- section analysis of the RJA that identifies its operational defects. 163 footnotes
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Federal legislation; Racial discrimination; Sentencing/Sanctions
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