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Racial Justice Act: A Simple Matter of Justice

NCJ Number
University of Dayton Law Review Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Dated: (Winter 1995) Pages: 699-713
D Edwards; J Conyers Jr
Date Published
15 pages
This article argues that the proposed Federal Racial Justice Act (RJA) would ensure that the death penalty is not disparately applied based on the race of the offender or victim.
In 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court held that a jurisdiction's pattern of racial bias in applying the death penalty, no matter how consistent, is irrelevant to any individual case in that jurisdiction. The RJA is an effort to counter this ruling. The RJA allows courts to consider evidence of a consistent pattern of racially discriminatory death sentences in the sentencing jurisdiction. It would allow the courts to consider the nature of the cases being compared, the prior records of the offenders, and other nonracial factors. If a court determines there was racial bias in the challenged case, the court will set aside the death sentence but not the underlying conviction. A person who overturns his/her death sentence will be resentenced to an appropriate term of imprisonment, up to and including life without possibility of release. The RJA requires a fact-specific analysis; it does not provide grounds for a systemic or statewide challenge to the death penalty. This article counters the specific arguments used by opponents of the RJA. 62 footnotes