Many studies have consistently demonstrated that the race of the victims, the defendants, or both, plays a significant factor in whether death notices are filed and death sentences are imposed. A disturbing fact revealed in Illinois’ “Governor’s Commission on Capital Punishment” (April 15, 2002), was that Illinois’ death row population consisted of 66% African-Americans, 20% of whom were convicted or condemned to die by all-white juries. Other studies have further shown that death is disproportionately imposed on African-American defendants and that this trend is heightened when an African-American is charged and convicted of killing a white victim. These same issues are prevalent in Washington State.

WASHINGTON STATE STATISTICS*

Race of Defendants

  • Death has been sought in 40% of white defendant cases and in 31% of black defendant cases.
  • Death has been imposed in 14% of the white defendant cases and 17% of the black defendant cases.

Race of Victims

  • Death has been sought in 38% of white victim cases and in 11% of black victim cases.
  • Death has been imposed in 14% of the white victim cases and 6% of the black victim cases.

Cross-racial

  • Death notices have NEVER been filed in a case with a white defendant and black victim.
  • Death notices have been filed in 42% of the cases with a black defendant and a white victim.
  • Death sentences have NEVER been imposed in a case with a white defendant and black victim.
  • Death sentences have been imposed in 21% of the cases where there is a black defendant and a white victim.

Current death row

  • There are nine (9) individuals currently facing a sentence of death in Washington.
  • Four (44%) are black; five (66%) are white.
  • Seven cases involved a white victim; two involved a victims of Asian descent.
  • Every juror that convicted and sentenced the black defendants was white.

*Data compiled by Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, May 2003.

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