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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 218125 Find in a Library
Title: Capriciousness or Fairness?: Race and Prosecutorial Decisions To Seek the Death Penalty in Kentucky
Journal: Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice  Volume:4  Issue:3  Dated:2006  Pages:27-49
Author(s): Thomas J. Keil; Gennaro F. Vito
Date Published: 2006
Page Count: 23
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Using an analytical method developed by Berk et al., this study examined the level of capriciousness (uncertainty) in prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty in Kentucky.
Abstract: In the overall population and in the various subgroups examined, prosecutorial decisions to seek the death penalty were more random than systematic. This randomness was inherent in the way capital-punishment decisions were made in Kentucky, irrespective of the race of the killer and/or race of the victim; however, capriciousness was higher for White murder defendants than Black murder defendants. When Kentucky prosecutors decided to proceed with capital charges when the victim was White, they were most likely to do so when the murder defendant was Black. When they prosecuted capital cases that involved Black defendants and White victims, these cases were far more homogeneous in their legal and extra-legal characteristics than the cases that involved White defendants and White victims. Given the level of randomness in prosecutorial decisions seeking capital punishment for all case combinations of defendants' and victims' race, these findings suggest that the individualized justice favored by the U.S. Supreme Court is a legal fiction or, at a minimum, an approximation. This study used the research method employed by Bert et al. in their estimation of the degree of capriciousness in the San Francisco capital sentencing charging system. In their model, the inputs were characteristics of the offender and the crime. The output was the prosecutors' decision to seek the death penalty. In the current study, the analysis focused on the extent of capriciousness in the prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty for all possible murders that met the Kentucky legal requirement for the death penalty. 3 tables and 39 references.
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Kentucky; Prosecutorial discretion; Racial discrimination
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