Racism & the Death Penalty

Excerpt from an interview with Michael Tigar in Austin, Texas on August 1-2, 2016.

In this clip, Tigar discusses the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case, McCleskey v. Kemp in which the court upheld the death penalty sentencing of an African American named Warren McCleskey for armed robbery and murder of a white police officer. A study of 2500 murders in Georgia conducted by University of Iowa law professor David Baldus showed that all individuals convicted of murdering whites were far more likely to receive the death penalty, which linked the sentencing charge to the race of the victim of the crime. In their decision, the Court said these results were not enough to overturn the guilty verdict.

Tigar also makes reference to Orlando Hall, convicted in 1996 of the abduction, rape and murder of Lisa Rene and given the death penalty. The case was brought to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights because there was evidence that the death penalty was sought far more frequently against African American defendants. Tigar provided expert testimony to the Commission.

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