McCleskey v. Kemp (1987)

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Courts / Corrections

McCleskey v. Kemp was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in 1987 that dealt with the issue of racial discrimination in the application of the death penalty.

The case involved Warren McCleskey, a Black man who was convicted of the murder of a white police officer in Georgia and sentenced to death.

McCleskey argued that the imposition of the death penalty in his case was racially discriminatory, citing statistical evidence that showed that Black defendants in Georgia were more likely to receive the death penalty than white defendants who had committed similar crimes.

However, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against McCleskey, holding that statistical evidence of racial disparities in the application of the death penalty did not prove intentional racial discrimination. The Court also stated that unless a defendant could demonstrate that intentional discrimination had occurred in their specific case, statistical evidence of racial disparities would not be sufficient to overturn a death sentence.

The ruling in McCleskey v. Kemp has been widely criticized for its failure to address the issue of racial bias in the criminal justice system, particularly in cases involving the death penalty.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2023


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