February 6, 2003
Death Penalty in America, Legal 485
Group discussion questions
- Finish any questions that your group didnt get to on
- Bedau says on p. 29 (2nd paragraph) ...it may come as a
surprise to those who believe the death penalty is blatantly
racist in character to learn that black murderers are slightly
less likely to end up on death row than their white
you think this means racism has been eliminated from the criminal
justice system? Later in that
paragraph, Bedau says, Killers of blacks (whether white or
black) rarely get sentenced to death, much less executed, whereas
killers of whites (whether white or black) are far more at
risk. How do
you account for this difference?
- Look at the numbers in Risk of Execution, pp.
31-33. Make sure that
everyone in the group understands what the numbers represent. How do you account for the fact that so few
murderers are executed? Be
specific. Do you see these
numbers as supporting imposition of the death penalty or opposing
- Think back to your reading and discussion about capital
punishment in the colonial era and in the 1800s.
Thinking as a sociologist would, what do you see as the
purpose or function of capital punishment in their culture? Be specific.
- Still thinking as a sociologist, what do you think is the
purpose or function of capital punishment in our culture today?
Do you see any similarities?