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 Professor Khalilah Brown-Dean (et al) – NY Times – A Truly Engaging Legal & Civic Engagement Forum.  We invite you to participate.

New Haven’s own Professor Khalilah Brown-Dean (Quinnipiac University), has written an informative and provocative piece in the New York Times; it leads the ensuing debate – with articles by others -- about the manner in which “justice” is determined and dispensed in the USA.  We invite you to read the articles in their entirety and make your comments here on GNH, or join this Civic Engagement ‘Room for Debate’ on Facebook; see the links below. We have also linked brief statements from each argument in this discussion forum.

We invite readers to pay close attention to the argument being made by John McAdams.  While this argument is skewed, it can be applied to New Haven. The exception might be that the reasons so many murders go unsolved in black communities, and in this case in New Haven are: a) due to a lack of cooperation with the police, and frankly b) not a great amount of investigative efforts on the part of the NHPD.  c) It is most likely that the 107 young black men killed in New Haven between 2009 and April 3, 2014 were killed by other young black men.  d) The thinking might be - if black people don't want to save each other, why should the police care about saving them?

One of the most recent high profile murders in NH was the murder of 23 year-old Michael Dubey, a white male, who was killed in his home on Bassett Street. His accused assailant was a young black male; he was brought to trial and set free.  No one else has been brought to trial.  But at least someone had been arrested.

Issues to be addressed: a) In most of the 107 murders of young black men (in NH), very few suspects have been arrested. Why do you think that is so? b) What do you think are the reasons why more people in black communities don't cooperate with the police?  c) Last week in the NHI there is a report of a security guard screaming at students at Riverside Academy not to speak with the press, and a report that staff at the school told students 'not to snitch.'  This is even in light of the fact that Riverside students have been murdered. d) What accounts for this, and how can this 'no snitch culture' be changed?

"The student was interrupted by a school security guard inside Riverside who opened the door and screamed at him not to talk to the press. Other students nearby taunted him and warned that school staff had said not to “snitch.” 

Professor Khalilah Brown-Dean: “The Supreme Court has routinely upheld a state’s right to sentence its citizens to death. The arbitrary way in which we decide which crimes are most heinous and which lives most valuable leaves us with a system of capital punishment that is cruel, unusual and irreparably broken.”

“If we accept the commonly held view that the death penalty represents the ultimate realization of justice for victims, then we also have to accept the fact that justice is rarely served for victims of color. The empirically backed reality is that killing black and brown people rarely brings a death sentence. At least one study has shown that minority defendants with white victims were far more likely to be sentenced to death than others.”

Rare and Decreasing - Richard Dieter is the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

“When the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether a punishment is cruel and unusual, they examine it in terms of current standards of decency. The Court looks to the number of states using the punishment, and whether its use is frequent or declining. In 2005, for example, the court struck down the death penalty for juvenile offenders because most states did not allow it, and its use was rare and decreasing even where it was allowed.”

Robert Blecker (Professor at NY Law School)  Punishment Needs to Be Punishment-  “If the U.S. Supreme Court wants to promote human dignity, if it really reflects the will of the people and not their leaders, the justices will constitutionally continue the punishment of death, allowing us to denounce our worst predators and at least declare our commitment to -- although we rarely deliver -- real justice.”

Paul Butler (is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center).  The Most ‘Unusual’ It’s Ever Been -

“When capital punishment was more common, it was easy to claim that people are executed because they are criminals. But now that fewer criminals receive the death penalty, that's no longer the case, and there are compelling reasons to argue that African-Americans are disproportionately subject to the death penalty not because of their crime, but because of their race.”

John McAdams (Associate professor of Political Science at Marquette University) Claims of Racial Disparity Are Misleading – “As for racial disparity in the death penalty, the reality is radically different from people’s stereotypes. Black offenders are less likely to get a death sentence than white offenders. The reason for this, as demonstrated by Theodore Eisenberg in the Cornell Law Review, is that murders committed by blacks (and of course, the vast majority of these victims are also black) are concentrated in the central cities of large metropolitan areas.”

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