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More on NC Racial Quota Act

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In the News & Observer, Michael Biesecker has this story about the NC House vote yesterday approving the Death Penalty Racial Quota Act (mislabeled Racial Justice Act). There is still a possibility this ill-advised, badly drafted measure won't make it out of the legislature due to a difference in the House and Senate versions.

In 2006, retired UNC Professor Elliot Cramer testified on an earlier version of the bill regarding the statistical studies claiming to show racial bias.

Given the large number of possible relevant variables and the small numbers of homicides in each judicial district, I do not see the possibility of any statistical study being able to adequately draw conclusions about racial disparities in administration of the death penalty....
I am agnostic on the issue [of the death penalty]. I am committed to the proper use of statistical methodology and I do not believe there is any statistical support for the view that the Death Penalty discriminates against African-Americans or anyone else.

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DETAILS: Why the Racial Justice Act is a SCAM - North Carolina
Dudley Sharp, contact info below, 7/13/09

Racial/ethnic bias should be taken seriously and by people of good will with honest intentions.

The aim of the Racial Justice Act (RJA) is not racial justice. The RJA's purpose is to increase cost and delay in death penalty cases, with a goal of assisting the end of the death penalty in North Carolina.

The RJA bill: Proof of racial discrimination is established if "Death sentences were sought or imposed significantly "MORE FREQUENTLY" upon persons of one race than upon persons of one race than upon persons of another race." (1)

Frequency is a measure of occurrence, not a measure of disproportionality, discrimination or measurable bias.

For example, if 10 death sentences are sought and imposed for both black and white murderers, the frequency of death sentences for each race is equal. Equal frequency can be, totally, disproportionate.

If whites had committed 100 death penalty eligible murders, yet only 10 death sentences were sought and imposed, and blacks had committed 12 "identical" (2)
death penalty eligible murders, yet 10 death sentences were sought and imposed, there would be equal frequency, but striking disproportionality.

For those truly looking for discrimination, it doesn't matter how frequently, how often or how rarely the death penalty is sought or imposed for murderers of different races/ethnicities, it only matters if it is significantly, measurably disproportionately sought or imposed based upon discrimination.

In any jurisdiction, if death sentences are sought or imposed 10 times for whites and 7 times for blacks or 10 times for blacks and 7 times for whites, the frequency is 30% less or 43% more and - voila - a claim of "more frequently" will be made and discrimination will be pronounced, even if death sentences are sought and imposed proportionately to any race/ethnicity involvement in capital murders and there is zero discrimination.

The RJA, intentionally, allows cases to be challenged and overturned based upon a definition of "discrimination" which has nothing to do with discrimination.

The RJA makes a mockery of justice and is a direct insult to those who truly wish to end racism and discrimination.

The RJA is a big, unnecessary dishonest mess.

The "Study": One often hears that racial bias was established by the study, "Race and The Death Penalty in North Carolina", by UNC-CH professors Boger and Unah (2). It wasn't.

First, the only alleged racial “disparity” (not bias) uncovered in the “study” is based upon: “. . . the “death odds multiplier” is 3.5, indicating that, on average, the odds of receiving a death sentence are increased by a factor of 3.5 when the murder victim is white.” (3). IF true, that 3.5 odds multiplier equals about a 2%-4% differential – completely meaningless, based upon actual cases sent to death row. NOTE: Many, in the media and elsewhere, misinterpreted the 3.5 as "times" (a 250% differential) as opposed to the actual "odds multiplier" (a 2-4% differential) . Did Boger/Unah ever correct that misunderstanding? The same problem exists with the McCleskey v Georgia case. (4)

Secondly, the study looks at 1993-1997, or 16% of the 32 years of current death penalty laws and 99 out of the 383 death sentences, or 26%. In the unlikely case the study is sound, the results show no discrimination. In the context of the full 32 year database, this study is irrelevant in discussing the death penalty in North Carolina, today.

Thirdly, academics, lawmakers, media (I hope) and others have been trying, without success, to get the database/methodology on the Boger/Unah study for nearly a decade. Is there a legitimate academic reason for withholding that information? Of course not.

The RJA - Renders Justice an Ass. Don't pass this bill.

Footnotes:

(1) HB461,15A-2011, (b), (1) & , mostly, (2), 6/30/09
http://ncleg.net/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S461v5.pdf

(2) Of course, there is no such thing as "identical" murders. The circumstances of each murder are all distinct, as are the murderer(s) and the victim(s). That is one of the obvious reasons why the RJA is so flawed.

(3) "Race and The Death Penalty in North Carolina: An Empirical Analysis 1993-1997", page 4, 4/16/2001
http://www.common-sense.org/pdfs/NCDeathPenaltyReport2001.pdf

(4) See "The Odds of Execution" within "How numbers are tricking you"
http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/4834/barnett.htm
and
"The Math Behind Race, Crime and Sentencing Statistics"
http://8.12.42.31/1998/jul/12/opinion/op-2965
see also
RACE: A Death Penalty Primer – No Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2006/03/25/race-a-death-penalty-primer.aspx?ref=rss

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally

If this bill were to become law, couldn't it backfire on its proponents? It seems to me that one way to avoid any hint of racial discrimination would be to seek the death penalty in each and every case that meets the criteria for capital murder. This could well lead to an upsurge in North Carolina death sentences.

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