Of the 39 executions performed in 2013, the overwhelming majority involved a crime with a white victim. The statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center show the continued racial bias of death penalty imposition, even as it becomes a decreasingly common punishment. While 32 of the 39 executions involved a white victim, just one white person was executed for killing only a black man. This defendant, Robert Gleason, was one of just four people who “volunteered” to be executed by waiving his appeals. Here’s how it breaks down:
These numbers continue a long history of racism in the death penalty. Since a death penalty moratorium was lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, the overwhelming majority of death penalty cases have involved a black defendant with a white victim. The list of those sitting on death row but not executed is also racially skewed. In Alabama, just six percent of murders involve black defendants and white victims, but 60 percent of black death row inmates were convicted of killing a white person. And in Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97 percent higher for those whose victim was white than for those whose victim was black.
Among those waiting on death row is a man whose sentencing hearing included testimony that blacks are more dangerous than whites. In fact, in the Texas county where Duane Buck was prosecuted, blacks were three times as likely as whites to be sentenced to death in the county during the period of Buck’s sentencing.
Race is one arbitrary factor that determines death sentences. Another is location. A recent study by the Death Penalty Information Center found that most executions are concentrated in just two percent of counties.