A consortium of organizations has created the website, McCleskey v. Kemp: 25 Years Later.
Twenty-five years ago this April 22, the Supreme Court decision in McCleskey v. Kemp allowed our criminal justice system to relegate Blacks and Latinos to second-class citizen status simply because of their race or ethnicity.
In McCleskey, a majority of the court ruled that it was "inevitable" that Blacks would be treated worse by the criminal justice system and that the Constitution is only violated where it is proven that a specific person in a specific case intentionally discriminates against the defendant because of his or her race.
There exists today significant racial disparities at many critical stages of the criminal justice, resulting in Blacks and Latinos being treated differently than whites in comparable circumstances.
EJS has joined together with the following organizations to raise awareness this week of the April 22 anniversary of McCleskey:NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
Capital Litigation Communications Project
Center for Death Penalty Litigation Inc.
Death Penalty Information Center
Equal Justice USA
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
You can join our efforts to awaken America from what Cornel West calls the "long slumber of indifference":
- Visit our website;
- Spread the word about the McCleskey decision's 25th anniversary and get involved; and,
- Connect with our partner organizations and lend your support.
Listen to the oral argument and read the decision (via LDF, which argued the case before the Supreme Court.)
Join the #McCleskey conversation on Twitter (kicked off by the ACLU Capital Punishment Project)
Hear Michelle Alexander describing the "new Jim Crow"
Watch Bryan Stevenson share some hard truths about America's justice system
The Supreme Court has never reconsidered McCleskey despite the fact that this decision has yielded enormous negative consequences that extend far beyond the confines of courthouses and jail cells. By sanctioning racial disproportionality in the administration of criminal justice, McCleskey has caused significant racial disparities in access to meaningful employment, to public housing, to higher education, and to voting.
Justice Lewis Powell, the author of McCleskey, later admitted to a biographer that he was wrong in that decision and that he belatedly found capital punishment to be unworkable.
By condoning criminal justice laws and policies which disproportionately impact communities of color, the Supreme Court has endorsed a system of justice that fosters racism by ignoring it.
There will be more on McCleskey, I'm certain, in the upcoming Race and the Death Penalty symposium at the University at Albany symposium, marking the contribution of David Baldus' papers to the University's National Death Penalty Archive. Last year's Baldus Academic Conference & Tribute at the University of Iowa College of Law also offered significant discussion of McCleskey.