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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.” 



  1. I give up on this formatting.

  2. I like it. It is readable. Then again, I’m old…or my eyes are anyway.

    I am having a hard time saying anything sensible here. I have the urge to type “But, just ’cause it’s racist doesn’t mean it is wrong.” but then I think that some moron won’t understand what I mean. So, I’m putting in all this qualifying stuff that removes the punch and won’t give you a laugh at just how nasty those people are. Sorry about having to do that. Oh well. Maybe you can imagine having laughed at it. Then again, may it is just the sort of thing that makes one mad. I am able to be angry and laugh at the same time.

  3. Me too BGG.

  4. I don’t understand the death penalty. I don’t understand racism.

    Maybe I’m not too bright.

  5. I don’t disagree with the death penalty in theory, but we’ve proven we can’t apply it with any accuracy or equality.
    I live in the “mess up and you get a needle” state. Some of those, who have been on our death row, needed to be there, but there have been too many who didn’t. Until we fix that it needs to stop.

  6. I don’t think I’m for the death penalty. I do know that some people are just plain evil incarnate. I also know that if someone hurt any of my children, I don’t care what color they are, I am going after them. Legally or not, they will fry.

    Racism lives everywhere. It’s worse now than it has ever been. Why? Because people know it isn’t politically correct so they hide it inside but it’s still there, waiting … lurking in the shadows … until the day that it comes out.

    My daughter and I were walking down the street the other day and a car pulled up very slowly and they yelled out “White Power” and sped off. I had heard this many times before. I don’t think my daughter had. She’s seventeen. Now she knows it’s out there, if she didn’t before. And it is a good thing to know that it’s out there.

  7. That’s truly frightening Corina.

    I take that back. No it isn’t. They wouldn’t have done that if they weren’t in a getaway car with a group of people. They’re losers. I refuse to give people like that the satisfaction of being afraid.

  8. Corina: Ewwww!

    I think there is something about the hiddenness of racism that makes things more difficult. I’m mostly oblivious to it because I’m hardly ever the recipient (and do to some other bits of good fortune).

    A friend of mine very recently told me a story of a bus trip she took. She had quite a tan and had died her hair dark. A group of boys decided that was enough provocation to physically attack her. Since she doesn’t live with that sort of thing most of the time, it took her by surprise. So, I agree with you that the hiddenness of racism makes many people unaware that it is still widespread.

  9. Corina, I thought about what you said and I have a few more thoughts.

    If someone hurt one of my kids I’d want to kill them with my bare hands. It’s only natural for a mother to react that way. I think that I would be wrong to kill someone though, even if it were morally or legally justified.

  10. Ivy!

  11. Especially when you’ve got numbers like you listed that illustrate how inequitable the system is.

    I don’t believe in the death penalty (until I think about losing someone I know and love or when I consider the really sick Jeffrey Dahmer type cases).

  12. That’s why posts like yours are important, Wanda.
    Have you ever noticed, when you drag something really ugly into the light it dies?

  13. How did my post get below Ivy’s? It looks like I’m psychic!

  14. I don’t know about the formatting or the comments. But I feel there is always karma for what you do. Look at Dahmer. He was killed by an inmate. He didn’t need the death penalty.

  15. Horribly off topic:
    You have been tagged.

  16. Oh schnaaaaap!

  17. Hey you over here in the sanctuary.
    I was going to ask you how you retroactively knew I was going to post.

  18. Psychic.

    Are you gonna join the cool kids already Ivy?

    • eclecticheretic
    • Posted November 16, 2007 at 10:32 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    I have a page now. My attention wandered after picking out a background and getting lost several times.

  19. Can you link a sister up Ivy?

  20. That is an excellent question and one deserving of a better answer than this. (er, how do I do that?) I pasted my website address in the box. I have yet to write my first blog.

  21. What box? (This is like the blind leading the blind)

  22. I am sorry (she says, feeling for the light switch). I sent you an email.

  23. I started out full of ire at the inequities of the legal system in general, and certainly with the way that the death penalty is applied….and then I came across Ivy and Wanda’s exchange and started feeling a little lost…..

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