Disquieting Discretion: Race, Geography & the Colorado Death Penalty in the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century
23 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 3, 2015
This Article demonstrates through original statistical research that prosecutors in Colorado were more likely to seek the death penalty against minority defendants than against white defendants. Moreover, defendants in Colorado’s Eighteenth Judicial District were more likely to face a death prosecution than defendants elsewhere in the state. Our empirical analysis demonstrates that even when one controls for the differential rates at which different groups commit statutorily death-eligible murders, non-white defendants and defendants in the Eighteenth Judicial District were still more likely than others to face a death penalty prosecution. Even when the heinousness of the crime is accounted for, the race of the accused and the place of the crime are statistically significant predictors of whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty. We discuss the implications of this disparate impact on the constitutionality of Colorado’s death penalty regime, concluding that the Colorado statute does not meet the dictates of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
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