"25 Years Later, McCleskey Decision Still Fosters Racism by Ignoring It," is the title of Eva Paterson's post at Huffington Post. She's the founder of Equal Justice Society. It was written with Christina Swarns of NAACP LDF.
Few cases involving the intersection of race, criminal law, and procedure have had the reach and impact of McCleskey v. Kemp, a United States Supreme Court decision decided 25 years ago, on April 22, 1987. This decision set the stage for more than 20 years of dramatically increasing racial disparities within the criminal justice system.
In McCleskey, the Supreme Court declared that a criminal justice system that treats blacks worse than whites is "inevitable" and that the Constitution is only violated by instances of intentional racial discrimination by individual actors in specific cases.
Specifically, the Court refused to set aside the death sentence of Warren McCleskey, an African American man who was sentenced to death in Georgia for the killing of a white person, despite the fact that statistical evidence demonstrated that in Georgia capital cases, blacks were more likely to receive a death sentence than any other defendants, and that black defendants who killed white victims were the most likely to be sentenced to death.
The implications of the McCleskey decision are profound. Because of McCleskey, there is no remedy for -- and, indeed, no constitutional problem with -- the fact that blacks are disproportionately stopped, searched, arrested, held on bail, charged with serious crimes (including death-eligible offenses), denied plea bargains, convicted, and sentenced to prison or execution.
More on McCleskey's 25th anniversary is at the link.