The USA has executed c. 650 people in the last ten years. The majority of executions take place in the deep south, where racial tensions still exist.
According to national census and Department of Justice figures:
- 34.2% of those executed are black - yet only 12.9% of the general population is black.
- 47.7% of murder victims are black - yet only 16.3% of those executed were convicted of killing a black person.
A recent Louisiana study concluded that, even after taking other variables into consideration, "the odds of a death sentence are still 97% higher for those who kill whites than for those who kill blacks" (G. Pierce and M. Radelet, "Death Sentencing in East Baton Rouge Parish, 1990-2008," 71 Louisiana Law Review 647, 671 (2011)).
Another study by the same researchers found that, in California, those who killed whites were over three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks and over four times more likely than those who killed Latinos (Pierce & Radelet, Santa Clara Law Review 2005).
A similar study in North Carolina found that the odds of receiving a death sentence were 3.5 times higher for defendants whose victims were white (Prof. Jack Boger and Dr. Isaac Unah, University of North Carolina, 2001).