Louisiana Death Sentenced Cases and Their Reversals, 1976-2015
The Southern University Law Center Journal of Race, Gender, and Poverty, Vol. 7, 2016
18 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2016 Last revised: 26 May 2017
Date Written: April 26, 2016
Since 1976, Louisiana’s experience with capital punishment has been deeply dysfunctional, with a significantly higher case reversal rate than the national average, and marked disparities in sentencing, reversals, and executions depending on the race and gender of the victim and accused. Our comprehensive analysis of each of 241 death-sentence cases in the post-Gregg period suggests that the “modern” death penalty has not resolved the issues of arbitrariness and bias that concerned the US Supreme Court in the 1972 Furman decision, which invalidated previous death penalty statutes throughout the country. Among 155 resolved death-sentence cases, there have been 127 reversals (of which nine were exonerations) and 28 executions. Since 2000, Louisiana has seen 50 reversals of previous death sentences, including seven exonerations, and only two executions. Not only are these reversal rates extremely high, but the racial discrepancies are shocking as well. Death sentences are imposed in 0.52% of cases with black male offenders and black male victims, but in 15.56% of cases with black male offenders and white female victims – 30 times more likely. No matter the race of the offender, killers of whites are more than six times more likely to receive a death penalty than killers of blacks, and 14 times more likely to be executed. The racial disparities even extend into the appeals process, where cases of killers of whites are clearly less likely to be reversed. No white person has been executed in Louisiana for a crime against a black victim since 1752.
The underlying data table for this article can be found here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2772052.
More graphical views of Louisiana death sentences can be found here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2770790.
Keywords: Death Penalty, Death Eligible, Capital Murder, First-Degree Murder, Race, Homicides, Prosecutions, Executions, Black Males, Race Neutral, Death Verdicts, Louisiana
JEL Classification: C12, K14, J70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation