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Death Penalty Series: Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case Alleging Racial Bias in Application of Death Penalty in Oklahoma

February 7, 2019

The case involved a 22 year study of race and the death penalty.

Death Penalty Series: Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case Alleging Racial Bias in Application of Death Penalty in OklahomaIn January 2019, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge brought by two Oklahoma death row prisoners who alleged that their sentences were the product of racial bias. The two men, Julius Jones and Tremane Wood, both sought to overturn their death sentences on the basis that their sentences were unconstitutional. Their challenges were back by the results of a 22 year study that showed that there are significant racial disparities in Oklahoma’s death sentencing practices.

On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court declined to hear Jones’ and Wood’s cases. To date, the Supreme Court has not addressed how race affects the application of the death penalty in the United States.

While Americans have different views about the death penalty, most would agree that if a person receives a death sentence, it should be because they committed a specific crime — and not on the basis of race. Most Americans would also agree that the death penalty should be instituted fairly, with similar crimes, victims and defendants bearing a roughly equal likelihood of receiving the death penalty.

The Oklahoma study reveals that this is not the case, at least in that state. A murder defendant in Oklahoma accused of killing a white victim was more than twice as likely to be sentenced to death as a defendant accused of killing a nonwhite victim. If the victim was a white man, the death penalty was three times more likely to be imposed than if the victim were a man of color. This study is the first of its kind, and its results are conclusive.

According to a criminal defense attorney Santa Ana, CA, this type of bias in sentencing is not unusual, as every individual in the criminal justice system brings his or her own biases into the courtroom. A decision by the Supreme Court on this matter may have provided some much-needed guidance to help steer judges and juries.

In the Jones case, there was additional evidence beyond the study to demonstrate that racial bias may have been at play. For example, one juror referred to Mr. Jones by a racial slur and stated that the trial was a waste of time. He is filing a separate petition for relief to the Supreme Court on that basis.

Although California has not executed a prisoner since 2006, the death penalty is still legal in the state. If you have been charged with a capital crime in California, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney Santa Ana, CA to represent you. At the Chambers Law Firm, we are skilled at handling a range of cases, including the most serious offenses. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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