Saturday, August 04, 2007

Blacks who kill whites most likely to be executed, study finds

OK. I will say the obvious about the report below -- a truth that even Taranto only hinted at: Many crimes committed by blacks against whites are extremely brutal (See e.g. here and here) and greater brutality is quite sufficient to explain the more severe sentencing without bringing skin colour into it. I also reproduce below Taranto's comment on the matter

In the United States, blacks convicted of killing whites are not only more likely than other killers to get a death sentencethey're also likelier to actually be executed, a new study suggests. The chances of being condemned and of being put to death are quite different, as "less than 10 percent of those given the death sentence ever get executed," said David Jacobs, coauthor of the study. Most of the others have their sentences overturned on appeal, he explained.

The new finding "suggests our justice system places greater value on white lives, even after sentences are handed down," added Jacobs, a sociologist at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. This apparently is the first study to examine whether the race of murder victims affects the probability that a convicted killer gets the ultimate punishment, Jacobs said.

The findings appear in the August issue of the research journal American Sociological Review. The study examined outcomes of 1,560 people sentenced to death in 16 states from 1973 to 2002. These 16 states were chosen because they had the complete data that the researchers needed for the study.

A black who killed a white person has twice the risk of being executed than a white person who killed a nonwhite, he said. "The fact that blacks who kill nonwhites actually are less likely to be executed than blacks who kill whites shows there is a strong racial bias here," Jacobs said. "Blacks are most likely to pay the ultimate price when their victims are white." Hispanics who killed whites were also more likely to be executed than were whites who killed nonwhites, the study found. But the risk of execution was not as strong for Hispanics who killed whites as they were for blacks who killed whites.

The study also reinforced previous findings by Jacobs that the likelihood of a legal death penalty was greater in states with higher proportions of black residents, an ideologically more conservative population, and in states where there was greater support for Republican candidates.

In the new research, Jacobs found that execution probabilities increase in states along with the population of African Americans, up to a point. But when the population of blacks reaches about 16 percent of the population, executions start to decrease. Probably at that point, AfricanAmericans have enough votes and political influence within a state to reduce the number of executions, Jacobs said.


Taranto comments:

Newsweek carries an interview with David Jacobs, a professor of sociology and political science at Ohio State University, who has conducted a new study on race and the death penalty. Jacobs tells the newsmagazine he found that "holding a whole bunch of stuff constant, including several political variables, we found that if a black person killed a white person they [sic] were more likely to get executed" than either black or white killers with nonwhite victims. In his mind, this proves "that the postsentencing capital-punishment process continues to place greater value on white lives." But the second page of the interview reveals that the study had a fundamental methodological flaw:

Q. [Did the disparities reflect] the nature of the crime? Or was it simply race?

A. We don't have much data on the nature of the crime. But Supreme Court regulations require a state to come up with aggravating and mitigating factors for capital cases. Aggravating factors might include, say, the killing of a child or torturing a victim. Mitigating factors might include the age of the offender or their childhood experience, whether they were abused, etc.

Q. So why do you think that blacks are twice as likely to get the death penalty for killing a white than a white for killing a nonwhite?

A. There are two plausible explanations. Prosecutors often win higher office if they win well-publicized cases. When a black kills a white such killings gets more publicity and we have evidence for that. Secondly--and perhaps even more plausible--appellate court justices at the state level are often subject to elections, called retention elections. That means they run unopposed without a party label. It's hard to blow an election like that. But some appellate justices in California and a few other states supposedly granted relief in too many death penalty appeals and got unelected in these retention elections.

How can one possibly draw conclusions about who gets executed and why without taking into account "the nature of the crime"? This would seem to be the most important variable, but Jacobs simply discounts it, even after conceding that "we don't have much data." Are we wrong to suspect that Jacobs's "plausible explanations" are actually preconceived notions?

Eroded English liberties

In his first statement to Parliament as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said: "Britain is rightly proud to be the pioneer of the modern liberties of the individual." Little noticed among the cascade of pronouncements about constitutional reform, was a promise to reconsider the ban on unlicensed political protest in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster. Mr Brown implied that when it came to balancing the need for public order with the right to public dissent, this was a law too far.

A commitment to personal liberty is only to be expected from a British prime minister, and especially from a son of the manse brought up in Adam Smith's home town. Yet Mr Brown sat in a Cabinet that did more than any other in recent years to alter the balance in the relationship between the State and the individual.

If Clement Attlee is remembered for postwar welfare provision and the NHS, Harold Wilson for Sixties' optimism, Edward Heath for joining Europe, James Callaghan for the Winter of Discontent, Margaret Thatcher for reducing the size of government and John Major, however unfairly, for sleaze, then we will look back on the Blair years as marking a serial assault by the State on the civil liberties of the citizen.

The State always wants to limit the liberties of its people. But it is normally restrained by an executive that understands the limits of illiberalism or is contained by a Parliament that considers itself to be a guardian of freedoms. For a number of reasons, neither of these brakes was applied under Tony Blair's premiership. The huge Commons majority he enjoyed, the craven pusillanimity of his party, the implosion of the Conservatives and the consequent absence of opposition, other than in the Lords - and, to an extent, in the courts - conspired with a genuine, though irrational, fear of terrorism and rising street crime to let the State take greater control over the citizen than it has enjoyed before in modern peacetime.

Under Mr Blair, the State recaptured territory that it must have thought had been buried forever under a mountain of human rights laws and beneath all the freedoms that would normally make it more difficult to control the individual, such as ease of communication and of movement. But the technology that has made us feel freer has also given the State the wherewithal to keep control over us and to say that it does so for our own good.

This assault has come from many directions. Surveillance of a sophistication never dreamt of in Orwell's worst nightmares; the gradual dismantling of the judicial protections afforded to defendants in criminal cases, even to the point of questioning the presumption of innocence; the criminalisation of dozens of activities that would never previously have been considered unlawful; the limits on freedom of speech; restrictions on movement and detention without trial or even charge; and the creation of databases containing information on us all and which will track the movements of our children and theirs from cradle to grave.

As Mr Brown conceded in the Commons, freedom of expression is a basic liberty that risks being eroded, a statement that seems at odds with a world of incessant internet chatter and unrestrained blogging. Despite this, probably not since John Milton railed against restrictions on the press in the 17th century has this country been so confused about where the boundaries of free speech lie. People used to be free under the criminal law to speak their minds, provided they did not incite others to commit violence or infringe public order.

Speaker's Corner, in Hyde Park, London, came to symbolise a democratic tradition of which the country was proud and whose parameters were also understood. Rabble-rousers trying to whip up the mob have never been the beneficiaries of this latitude. Parliament Square was, rightly, off limits to rioters but a magnet for those who wanted to shout in the ear of their legislators. Now, unless permission is granted, it is not even possible to whisper criticism of the Government.

Maya Evans found this out when she stood by the Cenotaph to recite the names of Britain's Iraqi war dead. For this she was arrested, arraigned and left with a criminal record. It is hard to conceive of a police officer a generation ago taking any notice of her since she was causing no public order problem at all. But Ms Evans had fallen foul of a clause in the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act which established a one kilometre zone around the Palace of Westminster, within whose boundaries political criticism can be voiced only on application to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Or ask Lynette Burrows about free speech. She had offered her opinion on the radio that two homosexual men should not be allowed to adopt a boy, which is a view with which you may agree or disagree, but does not warrant a call from the local constabulary. She was told that, although a crime had not been committed, it was policy to record details of such complaints, so Mrs Burrows is now, presumably, on some sinister register of people who express views that are not considered acceptable. Needless to say, she was flabbergasted to receive such a call. "This is a free country and we are entitled to express opinions on matters of public interest," she said.

But are we a free country any longer? Were we ever? It is said, though less often now than it used to be, that the basis of English liberty is the rule of law, under which everything is allowed unless specifically prohibited. According to A.V. Dicey, the 19th-century constitutionalist, this was one of the features that distinguished England from its continental counterparts, where people were subject to the exercise of arbitrary power and were actions that where not specifically authorised were proscribed. Effectively, this principle limited the scope of the State to intervene in people's lives. Law set the boundaries of personal action but did not dictate the course of such action. Some limitations on personal freedom are introduced ostensibly for our own good and some, obviously, predate the Blair Government, such as the compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars and a requirement to wear a crash helmet on a motorbike; but, since 1997, the pace of proscription has grown alarmingly, encompassing smacking to smoking.

Another aspect of liberty is privacy. It may be hard to believe in a world where people crave televised notoriety that there are still many who cherish anonymity. In a truly free society it should be possible for someone who does not wish to come to the attention of the state to remain unnoticed provided he breaks no laws. As A. J. P. Taylor observed, before the First World War the average citizen's interaction with the Government was largely limited to paying tax. "He could live where he liked and as he liked," the great historian wrote. "He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission."

Of one thing he could be certain and that was the inviolability of his home. But recent research has uncovered 266 separate powers under which the police and other state agents can enter your home, often using force to do so.

The proliferation of state databases, again very much a recent development, has also rendered the concept of the private individual a thing of the past, and from the earliest age. We are, almost without realising it, becoming the most snooped-on democratic nation on earth, electronically tracked from cot to coffin, our most personal details to be stored for ever, all in the name of modernisation, efficiency and, we are told, our own good. When it comes to softening up the country for an ID card, the Home Office has been prepared to play a very long game. As Peter Lilley, the former minister who led the Cabinet revolt that resulted in the abandonment of the last ID scheme, observed: "There is no policy that has been hawked, unsold, around Whitehall for longer than identity cards. It was always brought to us as a solution looking for problems."

September 11 and the threat from international terrorism was the problem it had most been looking for. The dust was duly blown from the plan the Tories had rejected and resubmitted to the Blair administration, tweaked to reflect the latest justification for its disinterment and given the added lure that played to new Labour's modernistic fetishism: biometrics. Suddenly, ID cards became a panacea and civil liberties considerations were simply brushed aside. Ministers decreed that the argument had been won "in principle". Tony Blair emphasised the personal benefit of having a national identity system, as though it were being established solely for the benefit of the citizen, and merely facilitated by the State.

Yet even to conduct this debate exclusively around the practicalities of an ID card system is to find the arguments of ministers thoroughly unconvincing. Just because biometric technology is available does not justify fingerprinting the entire population, nor does it necessarily give us a secure identity. However sophisticated the system, there will be false matches and false nonmatches, and these increase in number the larger the database. The innocent will be most inconvenienced - or even criminalised - by these inevitable glitches, accused of being someone they are not or not accepted as who they are. Crooks will simply find a way of attacking the system, and the temptation to do so will be all the greater precisely because people are being falsely led to believe that it will be foolproof.

There are people who remember carrying the old wartime ID cards, scrapped in 1952, and cannot see what all the fuss is about. It is about the database, not the card. This is not about protecting our identities but about placing them at the disposal of the state and sundry other organisations that will have access to them. We are being asked to subscribe to an identity system that is insecure and will rarely fulfil the grand ambitions that ministers claim for it. Worse than that, it is increasingly being done on the cheap because the vast cost of the enterprise is gradually sinking it.

It is this extension of state control through the unfettered and unthinking deployment of modern surveillance technology and databases for which the Blair years (and those of his successor, unless he does something dramatic to change course) will most be remembered. Our children, and theirs, will be perplexed as to why their forebears came so easily, and with so little public debate, to allow the State to manipulate their lives.


Ban on same-sex adoptions in Australia

The Federal Government says its bid to stop same-sex couples adopting from overseas is designed to give heterosexual couples in "typical family arrangements" priority over the limited number of children available. But gay rights campaigners have slammed the move, saying it shows the Government believes a child is better off in an Asian orphanage than with a loving same-sex couple. The Government plans to introduce a bill into parliament in the spring session, which begins next week, that will mean overseas adoptions by same-sex couples will not be recognised in Australia. If it becomes law, the child would not be granted a visa to enter Australia.

Rodney Croome, from the Australian Coalition for Equality, said the legislation was disappointing but not unexpected as the Government had unsuccessfully tried to introduce similar laws just before the 2004 election. "For a government to deliberately set out to stigmatise same-sex couples and their children to win a few votes in the lead up to an election is beneath contempt," he said. "The Government clearly believes children are better off in a Chinese orphanage or on the streets of Manila than in the care of a loving same-sex couple in Australia." The legislation could also harm children already in the care of same-sex couples "who are effectively being told by our government that their family is second rate and potentially dangerous".

The Family Law (Same Sex Adoption) Bill is listed for introduction in the 2007 spring sitting period. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's office yesterday said there was no guarantee it would be debated before Parliament finishes for the year in December or before an election is called. The timing of debate would depend on the urgency of other legislation. "It does apply to overseas adoptions where there is competition for a very small number of available children," Mr Ruddock said through a spokeswoman. "The measures will ensure that priority is given to those in typical family arrangements." The change would override the states and territories, which currently have responsibility for overseeing international adoptions.

The move follows the landmark adoption in June of a boy by two Western Australian gay men who did not know the mother. WA moved in 2002 to allow same-sex couples to adopt, the ACT passed similar legislation in 2004, and Tasmanian law allows gay couples to adopt where one of the partners is a parent of the child.

Mr Howard has previously said he is against gay adoptions because children should be given the opportunity of growing up with a mother and a father. A spokesman for Labor's legal affairs spokesman, Joe Ludwig, said the Opposition would examine the bill before deciding whether or not to support it.

Mr Croome said the Government was clearly attempting to wedge the Opposition on gay rights in the lead up to the election. "We can call it orphans overboard," he said, but added that if Labor wanted to claim it was the party of equality and human rights it should oppose the bill, as it did in 2004. Greens senator Kerry Nettle said the legislation was another blow to equality by the "deeply homophobic" Federal Government. "This is a disgraceful move by the Howard Government to pander to homophobic and fundamentally religious interests in the lead up to an election," Senator Nettle said. A Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report released in June also condemned the Government's previous moves to change the law.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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