Do Racial Disparities Exist When Administering the Death Penalty?

 Posted on May 20,2024 in Violent Crime

Connecticut criminal defense attorneyUnlike most other countries around the world, the United States still uses the death penalty in criminal cases involving charges that are considered to be especially serious, such as murder. While nearly half of the states in the country, including Connecticut, have abolished the death penalty, it continues to be legal in 27 states. Protestors and criminal justice advocates have argued against the use of capital punishment, and one issue that has been cited in recent years involves the injustices perpetuated by the criminal justice system, which punishes Black people at much higher rates than white people. 

Recent research indicates that these disparities exist when carrying out the death penalty, making Black people more likely to experience problems when lethal injections are administered. These continuing injustices highlight the need for skilled legal representation in criminal cases. An attorney who understands how to advocate on behalf of people who are facing serious criminal charges can address racism and discrimination, ensuring that defendants are treated as fairly as possible.

Racial Disparities in Botched Executions

Over the past few years, advocates have called attention to the procedures followed during executions of prisoners. While lethal injection is meant to be a safe, painless method of execution, in practice, it is not always performed quickly and simply. Different states have different protocols for administering lethal injections, with some states using one drug and others using up to four. Executions usually proceed in multiple stages, beginning with an anesthetic that numbs a person’s sensations and followed by drugs that cause paralysis in muscles throughout the body and stop the heart.

Unfortunately, problems with lethal injections have been reported in multiple states. The drugs used have not been approved by the FDA for these purposes, and the people administering them are not doctors, since doctors must take an oath to preserve life rather than end it. Botched executions have included situations where workers have spent hours trying to find veins where drugs can be administered intravenously, as well as cases where prisoners were still conscious when being injected with lethal drugs or verbally expressed pain. These cases have often resulted in painful, torturous deaths rather than the calm, humane procedures that lethal injections are supposed to follow.

To make matters worse, a study recently published by Reprieve, a group that advocates against the death penalty, has found that the racial disparities that occur in other parts of the justice system persist in the administration of lethal injections. This study tracked different indicators of botched executions and determined that across the United States, around half of all cases where mistakes were made involved Black prisoners, even though Black people only make up one third of prisoners executed. The disparity is even worse in Southern states such as Georgia, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, where around 75 percent of botched executions involved Black prisoners.

While there are a number of possible explanations for these disparities, researchers and criminal justice advocates have noted that they are in line with the disparities that Black people often face in the healthcare system. Black people are often believed to have a higher tolerance for pain, and some people think that they have thicker skin, which could affect the ways injections are performed. Some observers have also noted that prison officials often treat Black prisoners more harshly, such as by using tighter restraints because they believe the prisoners are more likely to struggle or resist. 

Contact Our Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer

Because racism and injustice continues to affect people who are charged with crimes, it is crucial for anyone involved in the criminal justice system to secure legal representation. While Connecticut no longer has the death penalty, people who have been accused of crimes may still face harsh penalties, and racial disparities continue to affect those of color and other minorities.

At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, our skilled Hartford criminal defense attorney fights to protect the rights of defendants. We work to ensure that everyone is treated fairly during criminal investigations and trials, advocating for dismissals or acquittals when possible or taking steps to help defendants complete their cases and move forward with their lives. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact our office today at 860-290-8690 and set up a free consultation to learn how we can help you.

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