In the United States, probably the chief objection to capital punishment (after the objection that many people have to capital punishment on the grounds that it is no morally different from murder) has been that it is used unfairly. (There are a number of people who advocate the death penalty if it is applied fairly; fewer believe that it should never be applied at all.) Women are rarely sentenced to death and even more rarely executed – although the number of women convicted of murder has been rising in recent years and now constitutes one-fifth of all murders. When the issues of race are considered, the picture is also clearly skewed as a highly disproportionate number of nonwhites are sentenced to death and executed.
In general, both the death sentencing rate and the death row population remain very small for women in comparison to that for men. The actual execution of female offenders is quite rare, with only 566 documented instances as of 12/31/02, beginning with the first in 1632. These 566 female executions constitute less than 3% of the total of confirmed executions in the United States since 1608 (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/womenstats.html).
Numerous statistics that summarize various aspects of the death penalty as it is applied in the United States indicate that race matters a great deal. Blacks are far more likely than whites to be sentenced to death; compounding this is the fact that blacks are far more likely to be charged with forms of homicide “eligible” for the death penalty than are whites accused of similar crimes.
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