May 9, 2006

Execution likelier for blacker US murderers: study

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The more "black looking" an
African-American man charged with murdering a white victim, the
more likely he is to be sentenced to death, a Stanford
University researcher said on Tuesday.

Using scores given by white and Asian-American Stanford
undergraduates to rate facial features of 44 black men tried
for murder in Philadelphia over 20 years, researchers found
that 57.5 percent rated to have "stereotypically" black
features such as dark skin were sentenced to death.

By contrast, 24.4 percent of black men in similar murder
cases and rated by the students as less stereotypically black
were sentenced to death, said Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford
psychologist involved in the research.

Despite the use of ratings from only white and
Asian-American students, the findings suggest jurors use
stereotypes of black features as a proxy for criminality and
punish murder defendants with those features more severely,
Eberhardt said.

"They do link although the students have no knowledge of
who they are or who they murdered," Eberhardt said, referring
to the defendants, their features and their sentences.

Researchers also set ratings for facial features against a
pool of 118 black men tried for murdering other blacks and
found no relationship between their features and sentences.

"You could not use the features to predict whether they got
a death sentence," Eberhardt said. "You're more likely to get a
death sentence in the white cases than in the black cases."

The study adds to other research showing murderers of
whites are more likely than murderers of blacks to be sentenced
to death, Eberhardt said.