Is who you kill a big factor in whether you get the death penalty?
A defendant is much more likely to be sentenced to death if he or she kills a “high-status” victim, according to new research by Scott Phillips, associate professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver (DU).
According to his research published in Law and Society Review, (43-4:807-837), the probability of being sentenced to death is much greater if a defendant kills a white or Hispanic victim who is married with a clean criminal record and a college degree, as opposed to a black or Asian victim who is single with a prior criminal record and no college degree.
“The concept of arbitrariness suggests that the relevant legal facts of a capital case cannot fully explain the outcome: irrelevant social facts also shape the ultimate state sanction” Phillips says. “In the capital of capital punishment, death is more apt to be sought and imposed on behalf of high status victims. Some victims matter more than others.”
Phillips research is based on 504 death penalty cases that occurred in Harris County, Texas between 1992 and 1999.
If you’re curious about this kind of stuff you really should read my post: You just committed murder. What should you do now?
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