What others are saying

May 04, 2007

Alabama legislators refused to debate and vote on a bill that would have granted the power to impose death sentences to juries, not elected judges.

Alabama's approach to the death penalty is broken on so many levels that it's hard to single out one flaw as being worse than the others. But certainly one of the worst aspects, and one that's pretty much peculiar to Alabama, is a law allowing judges to impose death sentences even when juries recommend against it.

This provision of the law puts the awesome power of life and death into the hands of elected judges who are subject to political pressure and can't afford to be labeled soft on crime. They need to be relieved of this authority.

- The Birmingham (Ala.) News

Some African-Americans joke that law enforcement has created a special category of traffic violation for them - DWB, or driving while black. Now, they have data to back it up.

A new federal Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of traffic stops shows that although police stop black, white and Hispanic drivers at the same rate, minorities are much more likely to be searched and ticketed. Of drivers pulled over in 2005, the Police-Public Contact Survey shows that police searched 9.5 percent of the black drivers and 8.8 percent of Hispanics, compared to 3.6 percent of whites.

A logical rationale might be that the black and Hispanic drivers give police more reason to suspect criminal activities and commence a search. But the data don't bear out that assumption since only about one in 10 searches during a traffic stop uncovers evidence of a possible crime.

Georgia and other states ought to monitor their criminal justice systems for racial profiling, starting with how kids are treated in their very first brush with the law.

The research shows that the law and the courts often cut youthful white offenders a break, but push minority kids into the criminal justice system, which can derail their futures.

Despite such troubling statistics, some people insist that blacks and Hispanics exaggerate racial profiling and trade on their minority status to evade responsibility. Hence all the jabber on the radio about minorities pulling out the "race card." But as the traffic stop data prove, if there's any card at play, it's clearly not a "get out of jail" card.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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