Richmond, VA – Virginia death penalty cases are easy to predict: They go to trial if the defendant is a black man, and the victim is a white woman.
That’s been the situation in every case over the past 17 years, according to two separate studies that a judge will review today. Defense attorneys for an Hispanic man in Stafford County say unconstitutional race and gender discrimination have resulted in his case becoming a death penalty case. Kent Willis, director of the ACLU of Virginia says racial bias can be found throughout the entire criminal justice system.
“The statistics bear out that, from beginning to end, racial bias is present in terms of arrest rates, conviction rates and length of sentences.”
The Reverend Jeff Jones leads a Universalist Unitarian congregation in Fredericksburg. He says the justice system isn’t the place to decide how to heal broken families and neighborhoods following a violent crime.
“Healing, I think, has to come from our faith communities, and from the arms of our family members and friends, not through the taking of a life.”
An American Bar Association study released this week calls for a moratorium on death penalty cases after racial bias was found in several states. Critics say all the studies were done by people who oppose the death penalty in the first place, so their analyses may reflect a built-in bias.
Deb Courson/John Robinson, Public News Service - VA