Specialisation: Institutionalized Racism

Racism in Death Sentencing


Several factors influence the high rates of death sentences among the blacks compared to the whites. The high percentage of death sentences among the blacks arises from multiple racist criminal laws and regulations presumed to fight ferocity and drugs in the 1980s. In 1980s, the broad Crime Act of 1986 defined the federal penalizing guidelines, while the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created various compulsory minimum jail term sentences for powder cocaine and crack (Donnelly, 2018). The African-Americans faced longer jail terms and even death sentences than the white criminals. Some researchers have exposed African Americans’ overrepresentation on death row. For instance, 52% of the total inmates on the death in 2019 were blacks. The paper explores the evidence that I would require to persuade the appellate courts that, in my client’s case, the jurors acted with a discriminatory purpose and whether it is realistic to presume that any other offender may meet the burden of proof.


According to the term, institutionalized racism suggests that the prevailing social patterns have the net effect of executing discriminatory environments against some groups based on ethnicity or race. The American government applies institutionalized racism using discriminatory policies and laws. Arguably, institutionalized racism remains a sensitive and debated social problem though the outsiders cannot understand the significant effects of institutionalized racism. American society experiences the destructive effects of institutionalized racism (Hinton, Henderson & Reed, 2018). Institutionalized racism remains one of the significant factors that cause high rates of death sentences amongst African Americans. Since America resumed death sentence 295, African American perpetrators faced death sentence for murdering a “white victim”, though only 21 white received execution for killing a black victim despite that the black people remained disproportionately the crime’s victims. I would require some of the kinds of evidence to challenge the appellate courts on my client’s case and whether assuming any other defender can meet the burden of proof.

Evidence to Convince the Appellate Court of Discrimination

Many empirical researchers have shown that racial discrimination significantly influences capital sentencing in the United States. Most of the “racial discrimination” affects the African-Americans or black community offenders. Essentially, the jurors and officials consider the black community morally violent or inferior to the white population. The members of the black community fear their racial background because of the presumed criminal behavior. The fear drives them to impose or seek the death penalty. The media displays the news of African Americans as the murderers of the white people and gives the information unbalanced or broader coverage. The trend raises racial discrimination since the judges offer prejudicial rulings- a racially discriminatory death sentence of media’s influence on the public perception, including the appellate courts (Hoag, 2019). It is rare to find impartial jurors, some show biasness towards the defendants based on their racial backgrounds. In most cases, all the jurors support white people in the case against African Americans or other people of color. Thus, the case rulings remain the same; the court declares the black community defendant guilty of the crime against the white race and renders the death sentence.

Determination of whether it is Realistic for any Offender to Meet the Burden of Proof

In rendering death sentences, substantial implications of racial discrimination when handling different cases among the judges exist. However, it is difficult to prove racial discrimination, like in the case of “Martinsville seven.” Besides, in Robert Tarver’s, the chosen jury of his peers went sentenced him to life despite the presence of parole. The judge disrupted any request and rendered a death sentence; hence, after selecting judges, some people claim that the judge enjoys protection from biases and racial discrimination (Holbrook et al., 2022). It is barely possible for any offender to prove that the jurors made a racially discriminative death sentence. It is almost impossible for any defendant to get evidence to prove that jurors gave a death sentence with racial motivations and the death sentence had racial discrimination. In the case, the attorney provided statistical proof to demonstrate the evidence of racial discrimination in death sentencing.


It is undeniable that death sentences among the African American community and other people of color have racial discriminative motivation. Research has exposed institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system, including the courts. The United States government must initiate best practices, specifics, and policies to eliminate racial biasness in the criminal justice system, especially death sentencing (Lavalley & Johnson, 2020). The measures will significantly reduce the rate of racial discrimination during sentencing, especially death sentencing. Finally, I feel that the court should the death sentence against my client since I strongly feel that racial discrimination influenced the death sentence ruling.


Donnelly, E. A. (2018). Can legislatures redress racial discrimination in capital punishment? Evaluating racial justice acts in response to McCleskey. The Journal of Criminal Law82(5), 388-401.

Hinton, E., Henderson, L., & Reed, C. (2018). An unjust burden: The disparate treatment of black Americans in the criminal justice system. Vera Institute of Justice, 1-20.

Hoag, A. (2019). Valuing Black Lives: A Case for Ending the Death Penalty. Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev.51, 983.

Holbrook, M. A., Dunbar, A., & Miller, M. K. (2022). Judges’ Perceptions of Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System. Race and Justice, 21533687221087388.

Lavalley, R., & Johnson, K. R. (2020). Occupation, injustice, and anti-Black racism in the United States of America. Journal of Occupational Science, 1-13.