James Keenan & William Montross, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
Originally published 11 DEC 20
Here is an excerpt:
Study after study demonstrates that the death penalty is infected with racial bias; the federal death penalty is no different. Indeed, in 1994, a mere six years after the implementation of the "modern" federal death penalty, the racial disparities compelled a congressional committee to conclude, "On the federal level, cases selected have almost exclusively involved minority defendants."
We are witnessing this Advent a modern-day lynching.
Each of the defendants in these cases was involved in crimes that resulted in the deaths of others. Some of the crimes were gruesome. But who these people are warrant a closer look.
Bernard was a teenager when he was an accomplice to the murder of a young couple, both youth ministers, on the Fort Hood military reservation in Texas. He did not fire the killing shots — a co-defendant, also sentenced to death and subsequently executed — did.
Bernard, a young black man, was tried in Texas before a jury in which all but one juror was white. His attorneys did not even make an opening statement at his trial and during the penalty phase — where the jury chooses between life and death — the same attorneys offered no witnesses on his behalf.
One of the federal prosecutors who earlier secured Bernard's death sentence later sought to have his life spared. Angela Moore writes that her subsequent "experience with teenagers who have committed violent crimes, especially boys of color, has taught me much about the recklessness and fragility of adolescents, as well as their ability to mature and change."
She also finds "another troubling fact revealed by recent research is that people tend to view Black boys — like Brandon — as more blameworthy than their white counterparts" and that "Black teens like Brandon are systematically denied the 'benefit' of their youth, which is outweighed by their race in the eyes of police, prosecutors, judges and jurors."