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Hispanics and the Death Penalty: Discriminatory Charging Practices in San Joaquin County, California

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 35 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2007 Pages: 17-27
Catherine Lee
Date Published
January 2007
11 pages
In an examination of whether or not racial bias uncovered in investigations of African-Americans and Whites also negatively impacted members of other minorities, specifically, Hispanics, this study examined all death-eligible homicides in San Joaquin County, CA from 1977 through 1986.
Results indicate patterns of racial and gender bias, finding defendants in Hispanic victim cases were less likely to face a death-eligible charge than defendants in White victim cases. The results of this study draw attention to the constitutionality as well as fairness of the death penalty system. Debates over fairness and constitutionality of the death penalty recently reentered the political and media limelight. What social scientists have carefully and quietly documented over the last three decades was evidence of racial and gender bias against defendants and victims at all stages of the death penalty system. This study sought to answer the question of whether Hispanics, as both victims and defendants, were treated more like non-Hispanic Whites or African-Americans. Using logistic regression analysis, this study examined how Hispanics fared in the criminal justice system with respect to the death penalty. The study examined death-eligible charging in superior court or at the guilt/innocence state from San Joaquin County, CA from 1977 through 1986. Table, appendix, notes, and references