McCleskey v. Kemp

481 U.S. 279 (1987)



A defendant who alleges an equal protection violation must prove purposeful discrimination. A criminal defendant must prove that the purposeful discrimination has a discriminatory effect on him.

Petitioner was convicted of two counts of armed robbery and one count of murder. At the penalty hearing, the jury imposed the death penalty because petitioner did not provide any mitigating circumstances. The state supreme court affirmed the trial court's decision and denied a petition for writ of certiorari. Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court in which he alleged the state's capital sentencing process was administered in a racially discriminatory manner in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Petitioner based his claims on a study that indicated a risk that racial consideration entered into capital sentencing determinations.

Is the Georgia death penalty statute racially discriminative?    




Evidence in the form of a complex statistical study indicating that a state's capital punishment statute is administered in such a way that black murderers and murders who murder white people are more likely to receive a death penalty were not sufficient to show the type of discriminatory effect required of defendant. The court observed that policies against jury racial bias, jury trials generally, and trial procedures were sufficient to safeguard defendants' rights.

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