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NCJ Number: 99395 Find in a Library
Title: Roll of the Dice
Journal: Angolite  Volume:10  Issue:3  Dated:(May/June 1985)  Pages:13-22
Author(s): J DeParle
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 10
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Disparities in the application of the death penalty in Louisiana are discussed with reference to the findings of a 'Times-Picayune' study of factors influencing its imposition.
Abstract: In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court denounced the random imposition of the death penalty and declared it unconstitutional. In 1976, with legal reforms reducing the number of crimes punishable by death and giving murderers new opportunities to plead for their lives, the Court reversed its decision. While, ideally, the death penalty should be imposed on the basis of a consideration of the offender's crime, character, and previous record, an examination of cases and the results of the study indicate that there is still great disparity in death sentencing practices and that a number of factors beyond the offender's control and irrelevant to his culpability still play a role. One finding of the study is that race plays a critical role in imposition of the death penalty. Of 310 cases involving white victims, 45 resulted in the death penalty; of 194 cases involving black victims, only 8 resulted in the death penalty. Further, of 13 cases involving a white murderer and a black victim, none resulted in imposition of the death penalty. Additional factors found to influence sentencing include the geographic location of the crime and trial, the quality of the legal defense, the unpredictability of juror behavior, the type of weapon used, the attitude of the prosecutor, and the age and social class of the offender and the victim. On the basis of these findings, it can be concluded that despite reforms, the death penalty is still handed out with the randomness that the Court denounced in its 1972 decision.
Index Term(s): Black/White Attitude Comparisons; Capital punishment; Louisiana; Offender profiles; Racial discrimination; Victim profiles
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