chapter  3
24 Pages

The legacy of slavery in capital punishment since 1976

ByBharat Malkani

This chapter sets out the initial successes of the anti-death penalty movement in the courts in the immediate years post-Gregg. It then considers the central role that discourses of victims' rights assumed in the early 1980s, and the continued resistance of the US Supreme Court to engage in discussions about the systemic racial bias that has afflicted the death penalty. In Gregg v. Georgia, the US Supreme Court made it clear that although capital punishment is permitted by the text of the US Constitution, the imposition of death sentences must not be arbitrary and must not be marred by racial prejudices. The centrality of race to capital punishment has therefore inevitably continued to influence the path of abolitionism, but again the impact of slavery and concerns race have been mixed. Post-1976 research has mainly highlighted how the race of the victim has had a greater impact on the imposition of capital punishment than the race of the defendant.