More than a year after it convicted a black trash hauler of murder, a jury returned to court for an extraordinary hearing on whether racism influenced its verdict.
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The racially oriented comments reported by jurors are consistent with those reported by researchers involved in the Capital Jury Project. A great deal of information about race and the death penalty has been revealed through the effort of those involved in the CJP.
For example, the number of white jurors can influence the sentencing outcome. As the number of white male jurors increase, so to does the probability of a capital sentence. Jurors also reveal the inner workings of deliberations. Many jurors seem to make their mind up about guilt and punishment long before deliberations begin. Race of the victim and of the offender both play a role in the decision making process of jurors.
The U.S. Supreme Court could have made progress in the effort to reduce the discrimination that continues to plague our criminal justice system. Instead, it elected to continue the racial legacy of capital punishment in its decision in McCleskey v. Kemp. That result may well have impacted cases such as the one Cape Cod.