In response to Diane Foster (“Imbalanced brainwashing at college,” Reader Input, March 28), the program at Sierra College was about Capital Punishment, Race and Incarceration on Cesar Chavez’s birthday. Judge David DeAlba questioned the five panelists. I was asked about ethical concerns and the death penalty. I said that the death penalty has always discriminated against black people and unless we can apply it equally we ought to abolish it and if it were applied equally we probably would abolish it.
Only two crimes would get the death penalty for a white person but 75 crimes would get it for a black person in 1840 Virginia. This was typical of slave-holding states.
During the Jim Crow era (1890-1930) more blacks were lynched without trial — 1,539 — than were executed after a trial. Nobody ever got prosecuted for lynching and it was only in the past few years that the United States Congress passed a federal law against it.
The U.S. Supreme Court received irrefutable evidence of racial discrimination in McClesky v. Kemp (1987). Defendants in Georgia who kill white victims are 4.3 times more likely to get the death penalty than those who kill black victims.
The court did not dispute the findings of the study but said that there is racism in society and necessarily discretion in the criminal justice system and racially motivated decisions are inevitable.
A defendant can get relief from the court only if the prosecutor or juror admits that a decision was racially motivated. The ruling created an impossible barrier for defendants. Professor Michael Radelet, University of Colorado, did a six-year study in California and found similar numbers. No other panelist said whether they supported or opposed the death penalty. Some students applauded my comment and others laughed derisively. I do not think anyone was brain washed.
PAUL COMISKEY, Newcastle