We analyze over 1,000 first-degree murder convictions in the state of Tennessee from 1977 through 2007 to determine if either “race-of-defendant” or “race-of-victim” effects are present when it comes to the application of capital punishment. We control for numerous factors related to the demographics of offender and victim, as well as the circumstances of the crime itself and the availability of evidence. Our primary findings note that prosecutors are more likely to seek a death sentence when a victim is white, but we also find that juries are not affected by the race of the victim. We also find no systematic bias against African-American defendants from prosecutors or juries. We identify a number of other variables that do have strong relationship to the imposition of the death penalty, including presence of scientific evidence, prior criminal convictions, and the killing of a law enforcement officer.
Sharma, Hemant; Scheb, John M. II; Houston, David J.; and Wagers, Kristin
"Race and the Death Penalty: an Empirical Assessment of First Degree Murder Convictions in Tennessee after Gregg v. Georgia,"
Tennessee Journal of Race, Gender, & Social Justice:
1, Article 2.
Available at: http://trace.tennessee.edu/rgsj/vol2/iss1/2