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Reseachers Study N.C. Death Penalty

April 20, 2001

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ The odds of a person being sentenced to death in North Carolina in the 1990s were three and a half times greater if the victim was white, a study found.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Law examined 502 murder cases from 1993 to 1997 in the first comprehensive look at the state’s death penalty in 20 years, said Jack Boger, an author of the study.

Of the cases studied in which a death sentence was possible, 11.6 percent of nonwhite defendants charged with murdering white victims received death sentences. Only 6.1 percent of whites charged with murdering whites and 4.7 percent of nonwhites charged with murdering nonwhites received the death penalty.

``The odds are supposed to be zero that race plays a role,″ said Isaac Unah, a political science professor at UNC and another principal researcher in the study, which was released Monday.

A spokeswoman for the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys said the study appeared to be a tool of death penalty opponents.

``I’ve got a stack of statistics that will tell you about anything you want to hear,″ said Peg Dorer, conference director. ``Those opposed to the death penalty will find racial bias anywhere they can look.

``I think it is up to a jury of 12 people to look at the facts of the case and decide if it merits the death penalty. I don’t think that has much to do with whether a victim is white or black. It has to do with the nature of the crime.″

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