Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017


Juvenile death penalty, Capital punishment


Criminal Procedure | Juvenile Law | Law and Race


Capital punishment in this country, and in South Carolina, has its roots in racial subjugation, stereotype, and animosity. The extreme disparities we report here have dampened due to the combined effects of decreasing levels of open racial antagonism, the reforms of the modem death penalty, including categorical exemptions for juveniles and person with intellectual disabilities and prohibition of the imposition of the death penalty for the crime of rape, and the (small) increase in diversity in capital juries. But dampened does not mean eradicated. Significant disparities in the administration of capital punishment persist today. The color of a defendant's skin (and the color of the victim's skin) are still the strongest predictors of whether capital punishment will be south and imposed. No less neutral an authority than the Government Accounting Office has concluded that in studies of capital punishment, findings of statistically significant racial disparity, particularly race of victim disparity, are ubiquitous. Similarly, while gross racial stereotyping and animosity is less common in modern death penalty cases, some instances still occur, and many, many cases involve only slightly disguised racism on the part of judges, jurors, prosecutors, and defense counsel.To imagine that a punishment whose history is so steeped in racism can ever be administered in a race neutral way is more than color blindness, and more than wishful thinking; it is willful blindness.