Minority service members are more than twice as likely as whites — after accounting for the crimes’ circumstances and the victims’ race — to be sentenced to death, according to a forthcoming study co-written by David Baldus, an eminent death-penalty scholar, who died in June.First of all, this type of study proves nothing. It is impossible to say with certainty that a white service member would not have gotten the death penalty in the cases where a minority received it, because a white person was not on trial. We are dealing with hypotheticals. Second, it is quite possible that there are factors more important than supposed racial bias that influenced the death sentences, and that they involve the individual circumstances of each case. And most importantly, even if minorities are more likely to get the death penalty because of racism, that doesn't mean we have to throw out the death penalty. Why not take measures to ensure that sentences are fair and not based on a defendant's race? In other words, why not fix the military death penalty rather than eliminate it?
The analysis is so disturbing because the military has made sustained, often successful efforts to rid its ranks of discrimination. But even with this record, its failure to apply the death penalty fairly is more proof that capital punishment cannot be free of racism’s taint. It is capricious, barbaric and discriminatory, and should be abolished.
If we have something that works or is beneficial but is tainted in its operation by racism, we don't just scrap it. We fix it. For example, if a corporation discriminates against minority workers we don't close it down. We bring lawsuits and legal judgments which force it to alter its practices. Now you can certainly argue that the death penalty doesn't work and isn't beneficial, but that's a different argument. Saying we should simply do away with the military death penalty because some statistics correlate with apparent racial bias is a weak argument, the kind made by those already biased against the penalty and looking for any plausible excuse to do away with it.