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Disparity in the Conviction Rates of Different Ethnicities in Death Penalty Cases - Research Paper Example

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Max Weber, a proponent of symbolic interaction theory, asserts that people act as per their own interpretation on the meaning of the world.The philosophy was later introduced by George Mead to American Sociology in the 1920s…
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Disparity in the Conviction Rates of Different Ethnicities in Death Penalty Cases
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Sur Supervisor Disparity in the Conviction Rates of Different Ethnicities in Death Penalty Cases Max Weber, a proponent of symbolic interaction theory, asserts that people act as per their own interpretation on the meaning of the world. The philosophy was later introduced by George Mead to American Sociology in the 1920s (Crossman, 2013). There is a widespread belief in the society that ethnicity plays a role while awarding death penalty to the convicts. My partner also believes so; the other day he initiated the discussion on this matter. My Partner: I strongly believe that racial discrimination does exist in the US criminal justice system. Although the US constitution speaks about equal rights and equal treatment to all yet this discrimination widely prevails. I: What made you think like that? Well, I will take recourse to social process theory also called symbolic interaction to address your viewpoint on this. We all provide subjective meanings without thinking what is correct objectively. We all interpret one another's behavior and that is how society is constructed. Everyone knows that criminal is a criminal regardless of their ethnicity and background. If people from a particular socio-cultural group do more heinous crime then it is quite likely that more people from that particular group will be awarded death penalty. Won’t you agree with that? My Partner: But, the thing is that racial minorities are meted with the death penalty in large numbers. For example, between 1995 and 2000, 183 accused were convicted for death penalty by federal prosecutors. Out of this, 74 percent belonged to minorities. Does this not mean that some sort of a personal bias prevails against minority group? I: You may be right in stating that more numbers of minority group have been convicted death penalty yet it cannot be an evidence of any systemic racism behavior. I would remind you of a meta study conducted by the General Accounting Office. The study involved with a variety of surveys on death penalty and race. Most of the studies had already established that Black defendants always perceived capital-sentencing outcomes and this was a general perception all around but not necessarily, it could be correct. My Partner: But still I would say that the race of defendant and the race of victim are major factors in deciding as to who is given death punishment in our country. This is not only mine but a general perception in the matter. I: Would you please elaborate on this? My Partner: Houston is considered the death penalty capital of the US. And I came across a recent news report that said that a Black defendant with homicide charge faces much higher chances for a possible death sentence than any White for the similar charge. I: I can’t say with surety what is the reality there but I would cite you a report from the US Justice Department issued in 2001 that declared that there is no evidence of ethnic or racial bias as such in general sense as commonly perceived. The report reveals that homicide offenses and capital punishment charges are not uniformly distributed across all ethnicities and population groups. The report says about federal prosecutors that they all are learned legal professionals and they strongly condemn discrimination based on racial attitudes or ethnicity. So perception about discrimination on capital punishment does not hold validity as such. My Partner: I have some other evidence to prove my point. As you might be aware that Racial Justice Acts were passed in North Carolina in 2009 and Kentucky in 1998. The Acts said that if race becomes a significant factor in the imposition of capital punishment, then death will be converted into life imprisonment. The Act takes into account even selection of jury while a trial proceeding is initiated. The formation of these Acts itself proves that racial discrimination does exist, otherwise why should such Acts be made at all. I: I know that you have a solid ground to prove your point but then do not forget about a case in North Carolina in which a 38 year-old Marcus Reymond Robinson with the charge of murdering and kidnapping a 17-year old boy was awarded death penalty but then taking advantage of this Act and with the fact that jury was made up of nine Whites and two Blacks, defendant's lawyer could take advantage of the situation and convert death penalty into life successfully. Now imagine another situation where you as a White man are facing a trial for Black homicide crime before a jury. And prosecutors remove all White jury from the trial room and leave you at the mercy of all Black members of the jury to judge your crime and its intensity. Won’t you feel frightened then? The point is that we need to come out of our narrow approach and be more rational in our approach to the issue. If we cannot trust each other as human beings then the best solution is to remove death penalty for all. Let the highest penalty be only a life term for the convict. As such, I believe that we have come a long way from our biased attitudes but it needs to be given some more time for our thinking to get more refined. My Partner: I agree with you that it is always better to remove death penalty from the penal code across the US so that one cannot point out racial discrimination on this critical aspect and jeopardize the social fabric of the nation. Works-Cited Crossman, Ashley. Symbolic Interaction Theory. about.com. Web. 5 May. 2013. http://sociology.about.com/od/Sociological-Theory/a/Symbolic-Interaction-Theory.htm Robinson, Bruce. Racial Bias. Religioustolerance.org. 2006. Web. 5 May. 2013. http://www.religioustolerance.org/executj.htm Toure. Put To Death For Being Black: New Hope Against Judicial System Bias. ideas.time.com. 2012. Web. 5 May 2013. Read More
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