Sorry for being all weird and serious. Another post today got me to reminiscing about the good old law school days. I took my head out of the oven long enough to write this.
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court heard McCleskey v. Kemp, a Georgia death penalty case where the black defendant killed a white man. McCleskey’s attorneys argued that the death penalty, as applied in this case was unconstitutional. They used the Baldus study to support their argument. The Baldus study said, in a nutshell, if you’re black and you kill a white person you are so dead. If you’re black and you kill another black person, eh, who cares. Here are some of the stats: Death penalty imposed in 22% cases of black defendant, white victim.Death penalty imposed 8% cases of white defendant and white victim.
Death penalty imposed in 3% of cases of white defendant and black victim.
Death penalty imposed in 1% of cases of black defendant and black victim.
The outcome? Mr. McCleskey was unceremoniously fried in 1991. The Supreme Court held that while the death penalty might be inherently racist, no one could show how the Baldus study applied in this case.
It’s like Jack Nicholsen said in Easy Rider: “You can get out of here, if you haven’t killed anybody – at least nobody white.”