HOW THE RACE OF THE DEFENDANT, VICTIM, AND TYPE OF LEGAL REPRESENTATION UTILIZED INFLUENCES THE LIKELIHOOD OF RECEIVING THE DEATH PENALTY

Open Access
Author:
Crutchfield, Candice Nicole
Area of Honors:
Criminology
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Jeffrey Todd Ulmer, Thesis Supervisor
  • Stacy Silver, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Death penalty
  • capital punishment
  • criminology
  • criminal justice reform
  • criminal justice
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • disenfranchisement
  • legal representation
  • first degree murder
  • Pennsylvania
  • courts
  • public defender
  • court appointed attorney
Abstract:
If the number of African Americans under the death sentence were proportional to their presence in the population of Pennsylvania, there would be approximately twenty Black individuals on death row. Instead, there are approximately ninety-two. Race and ethnicity have long been critical components of the criminal justice system, an area that has faced criticism regarding the prevalence of racial disparities in matters of sentencing and a contradiction of the constitutionality of the law. Present literature is abundant, examining the sentencing differences of defendants according to extralegal factors like that of one’s gender and socioeconomic status; however, questions remain regarding the race of the victim, defendant, and the type of legal representation received by the accused. The present study examines multiple variables finding that the race/ethnicity of the victim as well as the type of legal representation received by the defendant heavily influences the defendant’s likelihood of receiving the death penalty. Analyzing data of all death-eligible defendants in Pennsylvania and highlighting the disparities in pursuit of justice reform, this thesis seeks to further capital punishment research.