A new study by Professor Scott Phillips of the Univeristy of Denver found that black defendants in Houston, Texas, are more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants, even when other variables are accounted for. The research, to be published in a forthcoming edition of the Houston Law Review, looked at cases eligible for the death penalty in the county that is the source of the highest number of executions in Texas, which itself is responsible for more executions than any other state. The study, which looked at 504 defendants indicted for murder, also found that a person is more likely to be sentenced to death if they killed a white victim than if they killed a black victim, a finding consistent with over 20 race studies around the country. Race-of-defendant bias has not been shown as often in other studies.

Prof. Phillips found that when the severity and other factors of the crime are taken into account, prosecutorial disparities show up: “the odds of a death trial are 1.75 times higher against black defendants than white defendants.” The odds that a black defendant would actually be sentenced to death were almost 1.5 times as high as for a white defendant.

(A. Liptak, “A New Look at Race When Death Is Sought,” April 29, 2008). Read a preliminary version of the study. See Race.