Dateline: August, 2010, Issue 3
Baldus and colleagues (2001) analyzed 317 capital murder cases tried by jury in Philadelphia from 1981 to 1997. The researchers compared death sentence rates of juries with 4 or fewer blacks (below the median number of blacks for Philadelphia) to juries with 5 or more blacks (above the median number of blacks for Philadelphia).
The death penalty sentencing rate declined by 9 percentage points when capital juries had more than the median number of blacks. The death penalty sentencing rate was 34% when 4 or fewer blacks sat on a capital jury and 25% when the jury had 5 or more black jurors.
The difference in the death penalty sentencing rate primarily involved cases having black defendants. Black defendants had a substantially higher death sentence rate when the jury was predominantly non-black than when it had 5 or more blacks.
Racial composition of juries affects capital sentencing, particularly for black defendants.
Source Baldus, D. C., Woodworth, G., Zuckerman, D., Weiner, N. A., & Broffitt, B. (2001). The use of peremptory challenges in capital murder trials: A legal and empirical analysis. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, 3, pp. 1-172.