Report: Racial Disparities in Death Sentences Imposed on Late Teen Offenders Have Grown Since Supreme Court Ruling Banning Death Penalty for Juveniles

According to a new report from University of North Carolina political scientist Frank R. Baumgartner (Photo).

Baumgartner’s Report, Racial and Age Characteristics of Death Row Inmates Before and After roper, published June 21, 2022, examined the death sentences imposed on more than 8,700 people from 1972 to 2021, including more than 1,500 aged 20 or younger. Baumgartner found that throughout this period, defendants of color were overrepresented among those on death row for crimes they were accused of committing before they turned 21.

More than 3 in 5 of juvenile offenders and adolescent offenders on death row in the United States have been defendants of color, Baumgartner found. Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 in Roper vs. Simmons that subjecting offenders under the age of 18 to the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment, this number jumped to almost 80%.

“[I]n the period since roper“, said Baumgartner, “minorities are significantly overrepresented in the late teen class. The age disadvantage is combined with the minority status disadvantage.

A DPIC analysis of the data revealed that before roper, 48.9% of juvenile offenders sentenced to death and 48.2% of adolescents sentenced to death at the end of life were black. Those of Latin origin constituted 11.1% of minors sentenced to death and 8.8% of adolescents sentenced to death. But after roper, more than half (51.3%) of all death row inmates were black and 24.7% were Latinx. Before roper, 32.8% of juvenile offenders and 35.1% of death row defendants in late adolescence were white. who fell after roper 20.4% of adolescent defendants at the end of life.

Baumgartner called growing racial disparities a “troubling fact…that should lead policymakers to consider expanding protections for roper also to those in the 18 to 20 age category. If we want to have a death penalty,” he said, “it should target the most deserving, rather than the most vulnerable.”

235 juvenile offenders were sentenced to death in the United States between the return of the death penalty after Furman v. Georgia on June 29, 1972 and the decision of the Court in roper As of March 2005. Just under half (48.9%) were black, about a third (32.8%) were white, 11.1% were Latinx, and 1.3% were other races . Overall, 61.3% were defendants of color. Baumgartner did not have racial data on 6.0% of juvenile offenders sentenced to death.

Analysis of the data by the DPIC revealed that 59.3% of the 1,177 adolescent offenders sentenced to death before roper were colored defendants. 48.2% were black; 8.8% were Lantinx; and 2.3% were of other races. 35.1% were white and racial data was not available for 5.6%.

Baumgartner examined the race and age characteristics of a dataset of 8,733 people on death row across the United States from the date the United States Supreme Court declared existing laws unconstitutional on the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia from June 1972 to the end of 2021. It examined both the database as a whole and a subset of death sentences handed down after roper prohibits the use of the death penalty against minors under the age of 18.

It categorized death sentences based on the defendant’s age at the time of the crime and the defendant’s race, dividing age into four categories: minors (under 18), adolescents late (18-20 years), 21 years and older, and age unknown. He was able to obtain information on the age and race of 8,046 of those on death row. DPIC also analyzed an additional subset of Baumgartner’s data that included all death sentences handed down before roper.

Death Sentences Imposed in the United States
1972 to 2021

Age:

Under 18

18 to 20

21+

Faded away

Total

Race

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

White

77

32.77

442

33.51

3,339

48.14

59

24.28

3,917

44.85

Black

115

48.94

640

48.52

2,602

37.51

75

30.86

3,432

39.30

Hispanic

26

11.06

139

10.54

490

7.06

17

7.00

672

7.69

Other

3

1.28

30

2.27

143

2.06

3

1.23

179

2.05

Faded away

14

5.96

68

5.16

362

5.22

89

36.63

533

6.10

Total

235

100

1,319

100

6,939

100

243

100

8,733

100

Death Sentences Imposed in the United States
Pre-roper

Age:

Under 18

18 to 20

21+

Faded away

Total

Race

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

White

77

32.77

413

35.09

2,874

48.82

50

24.88

3,414

45.54

Black

115

48.94

567

48.17

2,193

37.25

61

30.35

2936

39.16

Hispanic

26

11.06

104

8.84

345

5.86

11

5.47

486

6.48

Other

3

1.28

27

2.29

114

1.94

3

1.49

179

2.39

Faded away

14

5.96

66

5.61

358

6.08

76

37.81

514

6.86

Total

235

100

1,177

100

5,887

100

201

100

7,497

100

Death Sentences Imposed in the United States
After roper

Age:

Under 18

18 to 20

21+

Faded away

Total

Race

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

White

N / A

N / A

29

20.42

465

44.20

9

9:43 p.m.

503

40.70

Black

N / A

N / A

73

51.41

409

38.88

14

33.33

496

40.13

Hispanic

N / A

N / A

35

24.65

145

13.78

6

14.29

186

15.05

Other

N / A

N / A

3

2.11

29

2.76

0

0.00

32

2.59

Faded away

N / A

N / A

2

1.41

4

0.38

13

30.95

19

1.54

Total

N / A

N / A

142

100

1,052

100

42

100

1,236

100

The analysis showed that the more vulnerable death row defendants were as a class, the more racially disproportionate the death sentences imposed on this category of defendants. This observation applied to all races, although juvenile and late-teenage black defendants were at equally disproportionate risk of being sentenced to death in the pre-roper period during which both groups were eligible for the death penalty. Baumgartner has suggested that the overrepresentation of black defendants in these age groups may be attributable, at least in part, to “the tendency to attribute adult characteristics to black and minority youth.”

Prior to roper, black defendants made up 48.9 percent and 48.5 percent of juvenile and adolescent death row defendants, ten percentage points higher than the percentage of African Americans on death row aged 21 or older. Latinx defendants made up 11.1% of juvenile death row offenders, 8.8% of end-of-life adolescents, and 5.9% of death row offenders aged 21 or older. In contrast, white defendants accounted for 32.7% of juveniles, 35.1% of end-of-life adolescents, and 48.8% of offenders aged 21 or older on death row.

Additionally, Baumgartner found, roper disproportionately benefited white teens, as the percentage of teens of color on death row increased by 18.9%, from 59.3% to 78.2%. Meanwhile, the number of white teens on death row fell 14.7 percentage points, from 35.1% to 20.4%.

Baumgartner’s data also shows that, at the same time, the number of death sentences has declined in the United States, racial disparities in sentencing have increased. Death sentences peaked in the United States in the mid-1990s, with more than 300 new death sentences handed down each year. They have fallen by around 90% since then, including a 70% drop in the decade before the pandemic. Fewer than 50 new death sentences have been handed down each year since 2015.

From 1972 to March 2005, defendants of color made up 48.0% of all those on death row, 45.5% were white, and racial data was not available for 6.9%. White defendants on death row outnumbered African Americans by 6.4 percentage points. Since roper, 57.8% of all death row defendants were people of color, 40.7% were white, and racial data is not available for 1.5%. The number of white and black defendants on death row was nearly equal, with white defendants on death row outnumbering African Americans by less than six-tenths of a percentage point. Moreover, the decline in death sentences in the United States predates ropersuggesting that the racial disparities associated with this decline are even greater.

In August 2022, the American Psychological Association (APA) voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for an end to the death penalty for people between the ages of 18 and 20. The APA resolution said the “same scientific and societal reasons” that led the U.S. Supreme Court to ban capital punishment for offenders under 18 “apply equally to the adolescent class. late”. He also noted that “black youths are punished more severely than whites” and that “it is clear that death as a punishment is not applied equally and fairly among members of the late teenage class. “. Baumgartner’s data supports the APA’s claims.

Baumgartner’s data also reinforces the conclusion of the Death Penalty Information Center, reported during the DPIC’s release of its Death Penalty Census in late June 2022, that “members of vulnerable groups who are sentenced to death (minors, mentally handicapped, innocent prisoners) are disproportionately likely to be charged with color.

The DPIC found that defendants of color made up 64.2% of exonerated death row inmates and 83.1% of all death row inmates subsequently found to be ineligible for the death penalty due to intellectual disability. DPIC also found that while defendants of color make up 44.3% of those executed in the United States over the past 50 years, 54.5% of those executed for offenses committed while underage, 69 .8% of mentally handicapped defendants executed before Atkins v. Virginia declared the practice unconstitutional, and 75.0% of the possibly mentally disabled prisoners who were executed despite Atkins‘ ban on the practice were people of color.

About Norman Griggs

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