SEATTLE (AP) -- A new report suggests that although prosecutors in Washington state are not more likely to seek the death penalty against black defendants, juries are more likely to impose it against them.
The study, by a sociology professor at the University of Washington, tries to answer longstanding questions about the role of race in the death penalty here. It was commissioned by the lawyers for death row inmate Allen Eugene Gregory, a black man convicted of raping and murdering a white woman in Pierce County in 1996.
It analyzed the 88 cases in which the death penalty has been sought since 1981, and found that with other factors, such as the number of victims, being similar, black defendants were three times as likely to be sentenced to execution as white defendants.
But the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys disputes the findings, saying the study failed to control for some key factors that could help explain why some defendants received a death sentence while others didn't, such as the vulnerability of the victim.