Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Gets Put To Death?

The death penalty was declared unconstitutional in the landmark 1972 Furman v. Georgia case largely because of how arbitrary it was. You could commit a murder in one place and get a maximum of life in prison, while in other places the exact same crime would have you be put to death (of course, it was later declared constitutional again after nothing had changed, but we decided we missed killing people).

Looking back at the past five years, it seems that death sentences are just as arbitrary as ever. In fact, over that span, a mere 10% of counties in the entire nation have been responsible for 100% of death sentences meted out.

Seeing it graphically only highlights the disparity:

Regardless of how you feel about capital punishment, you've got to be hard pressed to find a way this type of clearly unequal justice does not fall under the label of arbitrary...


Doug said...

Oooh! Bad math alert!

How many people have been put to death? How many counties are there?

If there were, say, 1000 counties, and 100 people were put to death, then even if it was PERFECTLY fair we would have 100% of people being put to death coming from only 10% of the counties.

So you have not shown evidence of inequity.


Woz said...

I leave the math to the article, but the point isn't necessarily the breakdown or numbers, but the arbitrary nature of it.

Regardless of how evenly the numbers do or don't break down, they're mostly just there because people only give credence to arguments that involve math.

The real point is that the punishment is by definition arbitrary if the same act in one location is punished with death while in another place it is not