Disquieting Discretion: Race, Geography & the Colorado Death Penalty in the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century

23 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2015  

Meg Beardsley

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

Sam Kamin

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Justin F. Marceau

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Scott Phillips

University of Denver

Date Written: August 3, 2015

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Beardsley, Meg and Kamin, Sam and Marceau, Justin F. and Phillips, Scott, Disquieting Discretion: Race, Geography & the Colorado Death Penalty in the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century (August 3, 2015). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 4, 2015; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-34. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2639260

Meg Beardsley

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

Sam Kamin (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
303-871-6125 (Phone)
303-871-6711 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.du.edu/index.php/profile/sam-kamin

Justin F. Marceau

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

Scott Phillips

University of Denver ( email )

2201 S. Gaylord St
Denver, CO 80208-2685
United States

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