'Who's the Fairest in the Land? An Analysis of Who Makes Death Penalty Decisions'
In recent years the death penalty has come under increasing scrutiny because of what appears like disparate sentencing for minorities relative to white. However, some research suggests that as a fraction of the defendants on death row accurately represents the distribution of murder arrests nationwide. The question of whether the bias occurs at the sentencing stage, at some earlier stage, or at all is an issue of broad concern. Any bias would raise grave concerns about the procedural fairness of death penalty applications. In attempts to redress some of these due process concerns, the Supreme Court in Ring v. Arizona determined that all death penalty sentences must be determined by a jury rather than a judge. This decision affected death penalty procedures in 13 states and the federal government while leaving 26 states with the death penalty unaffected. Using this variation in the impact of the decision, I plan to evaluate how the use of juries versus judges affects the proportion of minorities that receive the death penalty.