Does your race and income matter if face the death penalty?Criminal Justice, Racial Equity, Talk About Race, US — By Restore Fairness on March 5, 2010 at 09:57
It is no secret that our country’s criminal justice system has consistently proven to be biased against minority communities of color. Statistics published by the NAACP show that even amongst those found guilty of crimes, African-Americans continue to be disproportionately sentenced to life in prison, face higher drug sentences, and are executed at higher rates when compared to people of other races. Michelle Alexander speaks of a “color-coded caste system” in The New Jim Crow that marginalized communities who encounter the criminal justice system.
Seasoned Texas attorney David R. Dow’s new book The Autobiography of an Execution provides an exploration of the death penalty, written through the eyes of a man who has spent 20 years defending over a hundred death-row inmates, most of whom died, and most of whom were guilty. As the head litigator for the Texas Defender Service, a non profit legal aid organization in the state that boasts the highest number of executions since 1976, Dow presents a powerful argument against the death penalty system. Candidly exploring how he balances such a trying job with being a good father and husband, Dow’s extremely personal book only works to strengthen the argument that the broken criminal justice system operates on a vicious cycle based on racial and economic disparity.
In his book, Dow opposes the unequal basis on which some criminals are sentenced to be executed while others aren’t, and deems the criminal justice system “racist, classist (and) unprincipled.” He opposes the death penalty as a flawed and unjust facet of the criminal justice system. Based on his experience, he notes that while he believes that a majority of the clients he represented were, in fact, guilty, there was very little separating those criminals from others who were guilty of the same crime, other than “the operation of what I consider to be insidious types of prejudice.” Most unsettling is his severe mistrust of members of the justice system – police officers, prosecutors and judges – whom he believes would “violate their oaths of office” and put men and women on death row who they think “deserve to be there”.
In Dow’s exploration of the politics behind the death penalty, perhaps the most tenacious argument against it is the blatant way that the intersections of race and class influence the outcome of a criminal case. Dow says,
…if you’re going to commit murder, you want to be white, and you want to be wealthy — so that you can hire a first-class lawyer — and you want to kill a black person. And if [you are], the odds of your being sentenced to death are basically zero…It’s one thing to say that rich people should be able to drive Ferraris and poor people should have to take the bus. It’s very different to say that rich people should get treated one way by the state’s criminal-justice system and poor people should get treated another way. But that is the system that we have.
Author: Restore Fairness (3 Articles)
The Restore Fairness campaign is calling on the U.S. government to restore due process and fairness to our immigration system. Since the Declaration of Independence, America has striven to uphold fairness and due process. But today, a broken immigration system denies basic human rights and due process to people who live here. In the aftermath of 9-11, immigrants have borne the brunt of harsh policies, with the U.S. government allowing raids and arrests without warrants, holding thousands in inhumane detention conditions, and deporting people without a fair trial. This campaign site provides you with tools for action, so you can join us in building broad support for fair immigration policies that respect due process. The site includes a powerful documentary produced by Breakthrough in association with 26 key partners featuring leading voices on the issue and compelling personal testimonies, a video channel with additional immigration stories, a screening guide that aims to foster dialogue, an action hub, a blog for voicing opinion, tools for contributing and sharing content, and online resources to keep you up on the issue. With these, we hope to empower and encourage you to become an agent of change in your community. With your help, we can mobilize members of organizations, groups and individuals to demand that our government uphold the human rights of all people within the immigration system. We need you to take action now. Together, we can stand up for American values of due process and fairness. Become an ally of the movement today.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.