Thursday, May 25, 2006

Stereotypically black-looking criminals are more likely to get death sentences

Lisa Trei:

Male murderers with stereotypically "black-looking" features are more than twice as likely to get the death sentence than lighter-skinned African American defendants found guilty of killing a white person, Stanford researchers have found. The relationship between physical appearance and the death sentence disappears, however, when both murderers and their victims are black.

"Race clearly matters in criminal justice in ways in which people may or may not be consciously aware," said Jennifer Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology. "When black defendants are accused of killing whites, perhaps jurors use the degree to which these defendants appear stereotypically black as a proxy for criminality, and then punish accordingly."

Eberhardt's findings are published in the May issue of the journal Psychological Science. "Looking Deathworthy: Perceived Stereotypicality of Black Defendants Predicts Capital-Sentencing Outcomes" is co-authored with Paul G. Davies, a former Stanford postdoctoral scholar who is now an assistant professor at the University of California-Los Angeles; former Stanford graduate student Valerie J. Purdie-Vaughns, now an assistant professor at Yale University; and Cornell University law Professor Sheri Lynn Johnson, an expert on the death penalty.

Extensive studies already have established that murderers of white victims are more likely than murderers of black victims to be sentenced to death, Eberhardt said. In 1990, the General Accounting Office described this race-of-victim effect as "remarkably consistent across data sets, states, data collection methods and analytic techniques."

Eberhardt, who studies race and criminality, said she wanted to find out whether racial stereotypicality involving African Americans might affect sentencing outcomes in capital cases. She also was interested in whether the race of the victim would change the outcome.

"We thought there might be some effect there, but we didn't know how strong it would be," she said. The study found that 57.5 percent of defendants rated to have "stereotypically black" features - broad noses, thick lips, dark skin and hair - were sentenced to death compared with only 24.4 percent of men who were rated as less stereotypically black. This effect completely disappeared, however, in "black-on-black" capital cases: "There was no relationship between defendants' physical appearances and the sentences they received," Eberhardt explained. "These results resonate with previous findings on race and the death penalty, which consistently show that defendants accused of killing white victims are much more likely to be sentenced to death than those accused of killing blacks."

Of course, the easiest way of getting around this problem is to avoid killing people, then it won't matter what you look like.

2 Comments:

At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Nick T said...

Did this egg-head member of the academic elite ever consider the statistics that show most black murderers have EXTENSIVE prior records,vis a vis white defendants,or that basic primitivity[i.e.closer to their African ancestry]have been shown to have a bearing on criminality and hatred of whites-Obviously not! Tell any statistician what you would like the results to show,and [s]he can come up with valid data to support ANY desired result.As the old adage states "statistics don't lie-statisticians do".

 
At 4:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While six years old now, this analysis rather convincingly refutes such claims that Blacks are more likely to get the death penalty than Whites. Not sure what an update, or an analysis that takes 'stereotypically black-looking criminals' into consideration, might reveal.

 

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