Another issue that is wrongly viewed as conservative-versus-liberal is that of racial justice. Conservatives believe that all people should enjoy equal rights and opportunities, regardless of race or ethnicity. In this respect, too, the death penalty falls far short of the mark. Over half of the people on federal death row are people of color. What’s more is that every federal death sentence handed down in Virginia and in the Eastern District of Missouri have been imposed on people of color; that’s true in Texas for 75 percent of cases.

Perhaps most worrisome is that errors in the federal system are less likely to be corrected. State prisoners have access to both appellate and post-conviction proceedings in state court and then can seek habeas corpus review in the federal courts. In contrast, federal prisoners are allowed only a single post-conviction proceeding after direct appeal, and have no guarantee of appellate review should their post-conviction claims be denied.

Since they have less opportunity for post-trial review than their state counterparts, federal defendants are more at risk of wrongful convictions and death sentences. Additionally, prisoners who have intellectual disabilities and should have been excluded from the death penalty at trial still languish on the federal death row, because the courts have refused to consider their claims.