Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: June 02, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412971928 | Print ISBN: 9781412950855 | Online ISBN: 9781412971928| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Racial Justice Act
The Racial Justice Act was a proposed federal bill that sought to reform the operation of the death penalty. The act would have required prosecutors to explain apparent racial disparities in the imposition of death sentences. The idea is traceable to McCleskey v. Kemp , a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rejected a constitutional challenge to racial disparities in Georgia's capital punishment system. In McCleskey , lawyers for an African American sentenced to death relied on two sophisticated statistical studies that examined over 2,000 murder cases in Georgia during the 1970s to allege that Georgia's capital punishment system was unconstitutional. The studies indicated that in a midrange of capital prosecutions, the race of the victim and the race of the defendant were determinative of who received the death sentence. Stated most bluntly, in this midrange, Black murderers of Whites were more likely sentenced to death than any other defendant-victim ...