Christina Swarns

Recent Articles

The Uneven Scales of Capital Justice

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional. The Court found that because the capital-punishment laws gave sentencers virtually unbridled discretion in deciding whether or not to impose a death sentence, “The death sentence [was] disproportionately carried out on the poor, the Negro, and the members of unpopular groups.” In 1976, the Court reviewed the revised death-penalty statutes -- which are in place today -- and concluded that they sufficiently restricted sentencer discretion such that race and class would no longer play a pivotal role in the life-or-death calculus. In the 28 years since the reinstatement of the death penalty, however, it has become apparent that the Court was wrong. Race and class remain critical factors in the decision of who lives and who dies. Both race and poverty corrupt the administration of the death penalty. Race severely disadvantages the black jurors, black defendants, and black victims within the capital-punishment...