The federal death penalty impacts racial minorities differently than it does whites according to a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union. The report, The Persistent Problem of Racial Disparities in the Federal Death Penalty, notes that defendants of color make up the majority of the federal death row. And the risk of a case being authorized for the death penalty is 84% higher in cases where the victim is white, regardless of the race of the defendant. The report pointed to earlier Justice Department statistics that showed that almost twice the percentage of white defendants had the possibility of a death sentence being removed through plea bargaining than the percentage of defendants of color.

In light of this evidence, the ACLU called for a moratorium on the federal death penalty and for Congress to conduct a study to examine the racial disparities. The group also recommended passage of a Racial Justice Act to allow capital defendants to use statistics as evidence of racial bias, as well as a law requiring the Department of Justice to report on its implementation of the federal death penalty.

(ACLU Report, “The Persistent Problem of Racial Disparities in the Federal Death Penalty,” June 25, 2007). Read the Report. See Federal Death Penalty and Race.