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NCJ Number: 202500 Find in a Library
Title: Race and the Death Penalty: Including Asian Americans and Exploring the Desocialization of Law
Journal: Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice  Volume:1  Issue:1  Dated:2003  Pages:63-92
Author(s): Yee W. Kan; Scott Phillips
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 30
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined how the death penalty is applied to cases that involve Asian-American defendants and Asian-American victims; it also tested Donald Black's (1989) concept of the "desocialization of law," which he has proposed as a means of eliminating discrimination in legal proceedings.
Abstract: The subjects in this study were 1,233 students from 9 introductory political science and sociology classes at a large urban university in the Southwest. The students at this university came from all walks of life and thus tended to be representative of the demographics of people who would be jurors. Subjects were asked to read a vignette about a robbery-murder and then act as mock jurors in the sentencing phase of a capital trial. Jurors were instructed to offer a sentencing recommendation and complete the questionnaire. Four experimental conditions were presented in the vignette: Asian-American defendant and White victim; White defendant and Asian-American victim; African-American defendant and White victim; and race of defendant and victim unknown. Initially, bivariate cross-tabulations were used to examine the distribution of death sentences across the experimental conditions. Next, multivariate logistic regression models were used to control for potentially confounding influences. The findings suggest that Asian-American defendants and victims have the same impact on sentencing as White defendants and White victims; however, African-Americans as defendants were more likely than Asian-American and White defendants to receive the death penalty. Also, African-American defendants and defendants whose race was unknown faced the same odds of a death sentence, thus calling into question Black's belief that reducing the amount of social information on defendants that is available to judges and jurors will preclude discriminatory sentences. Two explanations for the latter findings are offered. First, jurors in the "unknown" condition could have presumed an African-American offender and a White victim in the absence of information on race. Second, not having any information on the characteristics of the defendant could have prevented the jurors from having any empathy for the defendant. The paper concludes with a discussion of the theoretical and public policy implications of the study's findings. 5 tables, 14 notes, and 60 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Asian Americans; Black/African Americans; Capital punishment; Caucasian/White Americans; Jury decisionmaking; Racial discrimination; Sentencing/Sanctions
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