Arguing on CNN Sunday Morning that the jury in the George Zimmerman case “made the right decision from their standpoint,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) dismissed any suggestion that America’s justice system is unfair to African-Americans or other people of color. In Perry’s words, “I think our justice system is color blind.” Watch it:
Perry’s claim that race plays no role in our justice system simply cannot be squared with the data from his own state. The most distinguishing aspect of Texas’ criminal justice system is its penchant for the death penalty. Over one third of all U.S. executions take place in Rick Perry’s state. Moreover, over 40 percent Texas’ death row inmates are black (121 out of 300 total inmates), despite the fact that only about 12 percent of Texans are African American. So a black Texan is more than three times more likely to be sentenced to die than their representation in Texas as a whole would suggest.
Nor is Texas an anomaly in this regard. In Alabama, just six percent of murders involve black defendants and white victims, but but 60 percent of black death row inmates were convicted of killing a white person. In Colorado, African Americans make up four percent of the population and 100 percent of the death row. And, in North Carolina, prosecutors in capital cases are more than twice as likely to remove a nonwhite juror from a jury pool than to do the same to a white juror.
So, even setting aside the facts of the Trayvon Martin killing, there is simply no basis for Perry’s claim that race plays no role in determining criminal justice outcomes. In cases involving the most severe penalty our system can inflict, black defendants receive harsher sentences than white defendants, and men and women who take black lives are treated as less worthy of the law’s highest sanction than those who kill white people.