Free «Racial Disparity in Death Penalty» Essay Sample

A Report on Racial Disparity in Death Penalty


To test the assertion that capital punishment in the American justice system is determined by arbitrary factors that are either random or not legal in any way e.g. race and social status of a defendant.

Null hypothesis

Capital punishment in the American justice system is not determined by arbitrary factors that are either random or not legal in any way

Results and Data Analysis

In Philips study (2008), the correlation coefficient was found to be -0.007 when it involved black defendants and 0.007 when it involved white defendants with a probability value of 0.995. The results were not substantially statistically computed, they were based on the number of executions on white and blacks in specific years as shown in the data. The level of significance was therefore very low or none at all. The study also showed that there is no correlation between the output data because the data used was unreliable. The results above clearly indicate that though the social status of an individual influences whether a person is sentenced to death or not, its effect on the Jury’s verdict is very low.

For instance, when a defendant is black, the negative correlation coefficient shows that they are likely to be sentenced to death due to their social status. On the contrary, the positive correlation co-efficient when the defendant is white shows that they are unlikely to be given a capital sentence due to their social status.The study by Philips (2009) focuses on the role of social status of the defendant and the victim in the decision to impose the death penalty. The sample for the study included 129 of the 504 defendants for whom the death penalty was sought; 98 out of the 129 were sentenced to death, 29 were imprisoned for life, one of the defendants was acquitted, and one was sent to the Texas Department of corrections for a sentence shorter than life.

The Implications of Results for Further Research Study and Policy

More research needs to be done on other factors besides social status that may lead to the racial disparity that exists in the justice system between blacks and whites. The study and other related reports show that the legal system needs to put in place clear policies to ensure equality amongst all citizens. Research should also be conducted on the transparency of legal and justice systems to guarantee access of all the information of the case for the parties involved.

Weaknesses and Limitations

            It is essential for human nature to commit errors of both omission and commission. It is thus necessary to point out that the research which this report is based on was exposed to a number of various limitations due to the obvious lack of resources. It would be perfect to study this subject with an unllimited access to information which may or may not have been relevant. Indeed, a great attention was paid to ensure that the material used was up to date, relevant and of reliable quality, and hence the information presented could be accepted as valid especially in providing a general outlook in the subject of racial disparity. However, there were still several limitations, to which this report was exposed to.

  For instance, in “Status Disparities in the Capital of Capital Punishment” by Phillip Scott, the main limitation is the inability of the study to examine the decisions made when the offender is charged or indicted. This means that conclusions made about the decisions by the DA and the jury may be inconsistent.

Another weakness is the measure of social status. Although the measures are reliable and reasonable, they are incomplete as they fail to capture some significant aspects of social status that  influences the decision to impose the death sentence on the defendant. The use of neighborhood and income in gauging wealth fails to consider the possibility of outliers, thus resulting in inaccurate categorizations.

 The study also has a limitation in the consideration of legal aspects of the case in the decision. Issues such as the strength of evidence were not analyzed in the study, thus it may present a factor that was not included in the analysis. The main weakness of the Paternoster and Brame’s study is that race is treated as a causal factor that can be manipulated. This makes it difficult to control the variables of the study and answer counterfactual questions.

Another limitation is the difficulty in comparing cases involving combinations that are dissimilar. Comparability of the black defendant/white victim and other cases is questionable because of the difference in characteristics. Another issue is the lack of complete background information on these cases. Therefore, some cases had to be dropped from the analysis. The gap between the prosecution sample and the defendant sample is also likely to cause disparity in the data and findings.

Overcoming Limitations

To overcome the mentioned limitations, future researchers should use more reliable sources for data collection and review more cases, say for the past twenty years or more. Future researchers may also find it helpful to collect data over a wider geographical area and in a greater number of samples to avoid the limitation brought about by generalizing results. For instance, the statistical data collected from several states cannot be used to formulate a broad-policy recommendation for a major change in the entire United States judicial system.

One more issue that needs to be taken into consideration by researchers is reliability of the study. In other words, the researcher has to make sure that in case the experiments or some other operations of the study are repeated, the results will stay valid and objective. Thus, the main objective of a person who conducts a research is to design it in such a way that would provide the further researchers with the same findings, even in case they decide to slightly change the


            Race based inequalities are among the most difficult issues in the American justice system today. Due to  the widespread racial disparity in the criminal justice system, as shown by the statistics above, there is a growing concern about whether this system upholds the principles of fairness, effectiveness and justice for all, on which it is based. This report and many similar studies should be a wakeup call to the relevant authorities to act promptly in order to restore the credibility of the justice system and more importantly, to protect citizens from a possible unfair treatment.


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