“Americans who favor capital punishment generally want it to be imposed, if at all, without factual error, pain, politics, prosecutorial overreach, or racial bias. But that’s just fantasy. The death penalty is inextricably bound up with each of those ills, and more.”

Los Angeles Times edi­to­r­i­al, May 72024

In a May 7, 2024 editorial, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board cites the deeply engrained racial disparities in the California death penalty system and how those facts led them to conclude that “even if the state could perform painless and anxiety-free executions and racial biases were eliminated, the death penalty would still be wrong.” “Black defendants were 4.6 to 8.7 times more likely to be sentenced to death than other defendants facing similar charges” the Board notes, and “Latinos were 3.2 to 6.2 times more likely to be sentenced to death.” 

In April 2024, a group of civil rights organizations and defense attorneys filed a petition with the California Supreme Court arguing that the state’s capital punishment scheme violates the California constitution’s equal protection clause because of its racially biased application. Weeks later, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced that a federal judge ordered the review of 35 death penalty cases after her office discovered evidence that prosecutors intentionally excluded Black and Jewish people from serving on juries.  

The Editorial Board says that capital punishment “puts too much power in the hands of government…it’s applied arbitrarily and is overtly political.” While juries might be death qualified, no one is qualified “to weigh non-tangibles such as moral worth, or to choose between life or death without improper emotional considerations,” the Editorial Board writes. Despite Governor Gavin Newsom’s execution moratorium and efforts to dismantle death row, state district attorneys continue to use the threat of capital punishment to secure guilty pleas. In closing, the Editorial Board concludes that “the petitioners who cite racism in California death sentences are correct, and they deserve credit for identifying an angle of attack that not only is righteous but also just may work. The tragedy is that it’s necessary for them to do it. The death penalty is morally repugnant and manifestly unjust, even without the long and ample record of racism in its application.” 


The Times Editorial Board, Editorial: Of course the death penal­ty is racist. And it would be wrong even if it weren’t, Los Angeles Times, May 72024.