McCleskey v. Kemp


Petitioner was charged with burglary and murder of a police officer in the state of Georgia.  The jury recommended the death penalty pursuant to the armed burglary/murder statute and a statute that permits the death penalty for killing of an officer.  A defendant may provide “mitigating circumstances” to reduce the sentence from the death penalty, but the petitioner provided none.  Petitioner appealed, claiming that Georgia had a racially discriminatory sentencing system and based his argument on a study that argued race entered into the decisions of jurists when issuing death penalty sentences.


Whether a statistical study that reaches a conclusion of racial discrimination in capital sentencing demonstrates a violation in the equal protection clause.


No.  The court stated that to be successful, petitioner must show that the jurors acted with a “discriminatory purpose.”  The court argued that they were to review the particular sentence of the relevant case.  Petitioner was arguing that in general racial bias influenced capital sentencing, but made no claim that it entered into his particular case.  The court argued that a statistical study such as the one presented is better left with a legislature to make informed policy with.

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