Seven of Connecticut's 11 death row inmates are suing the state to get their sentences overturned, arguing that race and geographic bias played a part in their criminal prosecution. They claim their penalty was decided in an arbitrary and discriminatory way based on their race and where they were prosecuted. Connecticut abolished the death penalty this year, but the ban only applies to capital cases since April 25. Their trial gets under way today.
The inmates' key evidence is a study that reviewed the state's nearly 4,700 murders from 1973 to 2007, and found that minority defendants in murder cases with white victims were three times more likely to receive a death sentence than white defendants in cases with white victims. Minority defendants convicted of death penalty-eligible murders of white victims were also six times more likely to receive a death sentence than minority defendants convicted of death penalty-eligible murders of minority victims. Connecticut state prosecutors hired their own expert who disputed much of those findings. Six of the men on Connecticut's death row are black; four are white; one is Hispanic.