The third problem with the death penalty is that the system is biased based on race and economic standing. Minorities have Favorite Son status when it comes to being executed. According to a study by law professor David Baldus and statistician George Woodworth, a black defendant is four times more likely to receive a death sentence than a white defendant for a similar crime. Part of the reason for this may be that those most responsible for determining which cases to pursue are white. Nearly 98% of chief district attorneys in counties using the death penalty are white; about 1% are African American. This bias was also apparent in the case of disgraced Chicago police commander Jon Burge, who, along with a group of other officers known as the “midnight crew,” allegedly tortured more than 100 young black men with beatings, suffocation, electrocution, and more in order to extract confessions.
The other key factor is the race of the victim. A black defendant is often more likely to get the death sentence if the victim is white. Between 1976 and 2014, Florida executed 84 people, but none of the condemned were white people who had killed an African American. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, no white person has ever been executed in Florida for killing a black person. In Alabama, only 6% of murders are blacks killing whites, yet 60% of blacks on death row involved a white victim. In Louisiana, if the murder victim is white, the state is 97% more likely to seek the death penalty. Since 1976, 269 African Americans have been executed when the victim was white, while only 20 whites have been executed when the victim was black. This lack of fair application is why some opponents of the death penalty consider it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.