In every modern society, there are authorities to impose punishments on wrongdoers and the nature of authorities varies with the kind of offenses. For example, a child who breaks the rules of a family at home is punished by his parents or the other elderly members. But, in the society when someone gets involved in illegal activities is punished by the criminal judicial system. There are two major reasons for inflicting punishment on criminals: one belief is that it is fair that people who break the law be punished according to the level of his offence, and the second belief is that punishments will discourage offenders from repeating their wrongdoings in the future and will also put fear in the minds of others from doing wrong. These two beliefs are universal in every human society. The debate surrounding the necessity of punishments including capital punishment, therefore, does not focus on the “basic principles but on the fairness, appropriateness, and effectiveness of specific punishments for specific offenses.”1 Because of the irrevocable nature of the death penalty, it is the most criticized form of punishment.
In the United States, racial prejudices were pervasive and played an important role in the decision of the jury in regard to death penalties as “the color of a defendant and victim’s skin plays a crucial and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America.”2 It has been seen that an offender is more likely to get the death penalty if the murdered victim is a white man. This paper focuses on the racial prejudices surrounding death penalty in the United States.
Before studying the death penalty from the angle of racial prejudices it is important to note that racism is a major part of the American society.