Racial Bias

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Racial discrimination remains a dominant feature of criminal justice in the United States and Alabama. More than half of the 3170 people on death row nationwide are people of color; 42% are African American. Prominent researchers have demonstrated that a defendant is more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black. The key decision makers in death penalty cases across the country are almost exclusively white. Despite decades of evidence showing that the administration of the death penalty is permeated with racial bias, courts and legislatures’ refusal to address race in any comprehensive way reveals a fundamental flaw in America’s justice system.

Each year in Alabama, nearly 65% of all murders involve black victims, yet 80% of the people currently awaiting execution in Alabama were convicted of crimes in which the victims were white. Only 6% of all murders in Alabama involve black defendants and white victims, but over 60% of black death row prisoners have been sentenced for killing someone white.

Although black people in Alabama constitute 27% of the total population, none of the 19 appellate court judges and only one of the 42 elected District Attorneys in Alabama is black. Nearly 63% of the Alabama prison population is black. The State of Alabama disenfranchises more of its citizens as a result of criminal convictions than any other state in the country.

EJI litigates on behalf of criminal defendants whose convictions have been unlawfully obtained on the basis of racial discrimination. In the last ten years, 23 capital cases in Alabama have been reversed after it was proven that prosecutors illegally excluded black people from jury service.


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