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A Dubious DP Study in Delaware

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Sean O'Sullivan has this story in the News-Journal.

The study includes the usual bleating about the fact that black perpetrator-white victim crimes have a higher rate of death sentences, and the authors can't think of any reason but racism to explain that.  Actually, Joseph Katz documented the legitimate reason for that statistical quirk decades ago in the McCleskey litigation.  The social reality in America is that black perpetrator-white victim crimes are far more likely to be predatory crimes -- crimes where the victim is unknown to the perpetrator and selected simply because he or she has something the perpetrator wants -- money, a car, or in sex crimes the victim herself.  Those are the crimes the death penalty is more likely to be imposed for, and rightly so. 

Black victim-black perpetrator murders are more likely to be crimes in the heat of passion arising from arguments between people who know each other.  Also, a large number of black-victim crimes, regrettably, arise from gang rivalries.  One gangster killing another is less likely to result in a death sentence, and rightly so.  In addition, gang-related crimes are more difficult to prosecute.  Witnesses are less likely to cooperate and more likely to be impeachable with criminal records of their own.

The absence of any race-of-defendant effect, documented in study after study done by the opponents themselves, proves that racial discrimination is not the reason for disparities in the statistics.  If racism were the casual factor, it would show up most clearly in this effect, but the effect is not there.  We need to look elsewhere for the explanations.  Studiers whose motive is simply to attack the death penalty don't want to look elsewhere, though.

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