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Martin G. Urbina

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A Qualitative Analysis of Latinos Executed in the United States Between 1975 and 1995: Who Were They?

Profiles the rising levels of African Americans and Latinos in prison, with special attention to Latinos executed over a 20-year period. A review of the existing literature on death sentence outcomes (i.e., executions, commutations) shows evidence of discrimination against minority defendants. However, since prior research has followed an African American/Caucasian (or execution/commutation) approach, Latino defendants have either been excluded or treated as a monolithic group. Hence, little is known about death sentence dispositions for Latinos, whose experiences differ from those of African Americans and Caucasians, and even less is known about the treatment of the various ethnic groups (e.g., Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans) that constitute the Latino community. Therefore, this study seeks to go beyond the traditional African American/Caucasian dichotomous approach by evaluating existing qualitative information on death sentence outcomes for the entire United States between 1975 and 1995. The findings, which are discussed within an historical and theoretical framework, show that discrimination in death sentence outcomes is not a phenomenon of the past. Race/ethnicity and several legal and extra-legal variables continue to play a role in determining who should die and who should be granted a commutation. Of the 17 executed Latinos in this period, 16 were of Mexican heritage (citizens or non-citizens) and one was Dominican (all in Texas). Diplomatic problems with Mexico, which has unsuccessfully protested the execution of Mexicans in the U.S.

death penalty — United States, 1975 to 1995, commutation, discrimination, Latino community (e.g., Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans)

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 31, Nos. 1-2 (2004): 242-267