Section 2:
Judge and Jury
Step 2
Steps 3 - 4
Death Penalty Cases


Racial Effects in Death Penalty Cases

Consider the following discussion of race and the death penalty in Philadelphia, from an article using data eventually published in 83 Cornell L. Rev. 1638 (1998).

"The first step in determining the presence of racial discrimination in the death penalty is to look at the raw data: from among the eligible homicides, how often are black defendants sentenced to death and how often are others sentenced to death?

"The raw data of death sentences in Philadelphia between 1983 and 1993, provide . . . evidence that race discrimination may be operating. The rate at which eligible black defendants were sentenced to death was nearly 40% higher than the rate for other eligible defendants. A sentencing rate is simply a ratio of the number of death sentences for a particular group compared to the total number of cases of that group which would be eligible for a death sentence. . . . [A] death sentencing rate of .18 for blacks means that for every 100 eligible black defendants, 18 will be sentenced to death. For other defendants, only 13 out of 100 will be similarly sentenced."

The appendix to the article reports that the .18 figure for black defendants above is based on black defendants' receiving the death penalty in 95 of 520 cases, and the .13 figure for other defendants is based on all others' receiving the death penalty in 19 of 147 cases.


  1. Construct a 2 x 2 table based on the data in the preceding paragraph.
  2. Use the chi-square calculator to compute the p-value. (In the Results reporting section, make sure to select "verbose" output.)

Chi-square and p-value calculator

Copyright © 2002 by Theodore Eisenberg & Kevin M. Clermont
Cornell University
Cornell Law School
Cornell University
Comments to ted@teddy.law.cornell.edu
Last updated: September 2002