More white Americans still support the death penalty. There’s an unpleasant reason for that| Friday Morning Coffee

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Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

So, first things first: Pennsylvania hasn’t executed anyone since Philadelphia torture-killer Gary Heidnik was put to death at Rockview State Prison in Centre County in 1999. And shortly after taking office in 2015, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a moratorium on executions that persists even now.

Despite overwhelming evidence that society’s ultimate sanction is biased against poor defendants and defendants of color, other states still have death penalty statutes. And too many continue to carry out executions, putting the United States in the company of such noted beacons of human freedom as Iran and China.

Writing for The Conversation, Kevin O’Neal Cokley, a professor of Educational Psychology and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin offers an additional wrinkle: The significant racial disparity in public opinion on capital punishment, and the effect it has on the death penalty’s endurance as a method of punishment — even though it has proven to be largely useless as a deterrent.

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He writes:

The racially inequitable application of the death penalty was highlighted on Nov. 15, 2019, when, in an unexpected turn of events, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Rodney Reed less than one week before he was scheduled to be executed for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites.

The case was racially charged. Reed, a black man, is accused of killing Stites, a white woman, and was found guilty by an all-white jury.

The Reed case is one of many capital murder cases that present an opportunity to critically examine the application of the death penalty.

As director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, I lead an organization that is committed to the elimination of racial bias and disparities through promoting equitable public policies.

Since 1976, people of color have accounted for 43% of total executions and make up over half of inmates who are currently scheduled to be executed.

In Texas, African Americans make up less than 13 percent of the population yet represent 44.2 percent of death row inmates. Nationally, African Americans make up 42 percent of death row inmates.

When both race and gender are considered, disparities in sentencing become even more pronounced. Homicides involving white female victims are significantly more likely to result in a death sentence than homicides with any other victim characteristics.

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Moreover, he adds:

However, beyond the explicit examples of racial bias in the criminal justice system that typically get the most attention, there remains another, more subtle bias related to the beliefs held by jurors.

People who oppose the death penalty cannot serve on a murder case jury where the death penalty is a possibility. Only individuals who say they would consider the death penalty can serve.

When you examine the numbers behind support of the death penalty, a trend emerges.

White people make up the core of support for the death penalty in the United StatesStudies indicate that white people show significantly higher support for the death penalty than do black people.

This is consistent with a 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center, which found that 59 percent of white people favor the death penalty, compared with 47 percent of Latino and 36 percent of black people. Among white people, evangelical Protestants show the strongest support for the death penalty, with 73 percent favoring it.

Why do white people support the death penalty at much higher levels than black people?

According to research, one answer is racial prejudice. White Americans tend to associate criminality with racial minoritiesIn one study, researchers found that, after controlling for factors including education, family income, religion and political ideology, white people with stronger anti-black attitudes were more likely to support the death penalty.

It should come as no surprise that views about the criminal justice system diverge widely between black and white Americans, with black Americans being much more likely to see the system as racially biased.

Perhaps this explains why prosecutors, in spite of the illegality of excluding prospective jurors based on race, still use tactics to strike potential black jurors from the jury.

When juries are more racially diverse, that increases the likelihood that potential racism is discussed. What’s more, social science research indicates that all-white juries convict black defendants significantly more often than white defendants.

In my view, in capital murder cases, an all-white jury combined with white support for the death penalty stacks the odds against black male defendants like Rodney Reed.

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From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: Protesters are pressuring Comcast to keep the Starz family of cable channels, which are more diverse in their programming, and more reflective of communities of color.

The Pennsylvania U.S. House lawmakers who had access to the Trump impeachment depositions skipped most of them, our Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reports.

Wait? What? President Donald Trump opened an Apple plant? Here’s what’s rotten at the core of that claim.

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Elsewhere.
Here’s the Inquirer on how Pennsylvania changed a law suspending driver’s licenses. But for many state residents it’s still a form of ongoing punishment.
A church in Coraopolis, Pa., fed more than 500 people on Thanksgiving DayThe Post-Gazette tells the story.
The new owner of five Harrisburg apartment complexes has his work cut out for him. PennLive explains.
The Morning Call’s Paul Muschick asks an existential question: Why are Pa. lawmakers only in voting session for 70 out of 250 working days? We will allow you the Black Friday luxury of leisurely filling in your own punchlines here.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM has the story of a group working to uncover the history of racial violence in Delaware.
The Pa. Game Commission has warned hunters of the dangers of lead ammunition. Hunters say non-lead-ammo is too expensive. We say it’s the deer getting the last laugh (via WITF-FM).
Two progressive activist groups, MoveOn.org and Need to Impeach, tag-teamed U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, and Scott Perry, R-10th District, in a mobile billboard campaign, PoliticsPA reports.
It’s a five-year-old policy, but more kids on Medicaid are starting to get healthcare in school, Stateline.org reports.
Politico 
goes behind the scenes of President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation.
It’s Black Friday, so here’s some Black Flag. It’s ‘TV Party.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The absolutely hapless Habs fell to the Devils 6-4 on ThursdayMontreal is winless in its last six.

And now you’re up to date. 

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.