FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Racism is Alive and Well in South Carolina Death House

Anthony “Tony” Green is a 38-year old African American man who is scheduled to be executed by the state of South Carolina on August 23, 2002. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1987 for the botched robbery and murder of Susan Babich in Charleston County. So why should you care what happens to Anthony Green?

You should care because at the time of Tony’s trial in 1988, Charlie Condon, the Charleston County Solicitor who declared he would prefer an electric sofa as opposed to the electric chair, pursued the death penalty in an alarmingly racist manner. He sought the death penalty in 40% of the cases where the defendant was African-American and the victim was white compared to only 2.9% of the cases where the defendant and the victim were both African-American. Likewise, the office pursued the death penalty in 32.3% of all cases where the victim was white, but only 5.2% of the time when the victim was black. In Charleston County, the state was fourteen times more likely to seek the death penalty in a case involving a black defendant if the victim was white. Such racial bias in the imposition of the death penalty means that regardless of the circumstances surrounding Tony’s case, his race and the race of his victim were determining factors in the state’s decision to seek death and the jury’s willingness to impose it.

Thirteen of twenty cases in which the Condon sought the death penalty between 1977 and 1990 involved African-American or minority defendants. It is implausible to believe that this pattern would emerge if race-neutral criteria were used by the prosecutor to determine when to seek the death penalty. Evidence from numerous studies demonstrates that this pattern of racial bias in the imposition of the death penalty is disturbingly consistent throughout South Carolina.

In South Carolina, African-American defendants who kill whites are sentenced to death at approximately 3 times the rate of whites that kill whites. There is a huge discrepancy between the sentences the state seeks when the victim is African-American and when the victim is white. Even though most murder victims in South Carolina are African-American, only .46% of African-American victim cases result in death sentences, compared to the 3.4% of white victim cases resulting in the death penalty. In South Carolina a person charged with killing someone white is 8 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a person charged with killing an African-American. More disturbingly, an African-American charged with killing a white person is approximately 6 times more likely to be sentenced to death.

Senseless, random violence is very difficult to comprehend. Susan Babich was not the only victim here. She was a daughter, sister, wife and mother. It is hard to imagine the injustice her family must feel losing her in this manner. It’s hard to understand what possessed Tony that afternoon back in 1987. People who knew him were shocked to hear of his arrest. He had no prior arrests and by all accounts, was a good, well-mannered kid with an impressive high school record and stellar performance on his high school basketball team. However, at the time of the shooting, he had developed a drug problem. It is understandable for Susan’s family to want revenge for her death, but revenge is not what drives our judicial system. Everyone, even people suspected of heinous crimes, are equal and entitled to certain protections under the law. That is how we, as a society, prevent further injustices from happening.

The fact that there are racial disparities inherent in the judicial system doesn’t come as a shock. Numbers don’t lie. In South Carolina, there are 3,855 black men per 100,000 in prison, compared to the rate for white men which are 588 per 100,000. Blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate that is 13.4 times greater than that of white men. Although blacks only comprise 30% of the population in South Carolina, 70% of our prison population is black. Blacks comprise an overwhelming 86% of the drug offenders in our state prisons. Race plays a dominant role in the courtrooms across our state. But by the very laws that are designed to protect us, it cannot continue to play a factor in the most profound decision a government can make – who lives and who dies.

While it may be difficult for us to view Tony Green as a victim as he awaits execution by lethal injection on the 23rd of this month, it should not be difficult to see the statistical patterns emerging as we delve into the race disparities and institutionalized racism present in capital sentencing. Tony’s lawyers have petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to review his sentence. As a member of the Organization of American states and signatory to three key human rights treaties, Tony’s lawyers argue that the United States is bound by the rulings of the IAHRC. The IAHRC has issued precautionary measures to the United States not to carry out Tony’s execution but it will be several months before the commission is able to perform a complete investigation. Because of the delay, Tony’s lawyers have asked the S.C. Supreme Court to stay his execution. They have also asked Governor Jim Hodges to grant Green a reprieve to give the IACHR enough time to rule in his case. We, as a civilized society, must insist that this happen. When the system fails to protect one of us, the system has failed us all.

Wendy Brinker is Project Coordinator for the South Carolina Equal Justice Alliance in Columbia, South Carolina.

She can be reached at: maat156@earthlink.net

New Print Edition of CounterPunch Available Exclusively to Subscribers:

War Talk As White Noise: Anything to Get Harken and Halliburton Out of the Headlines; First Hilliard, Then McKinney: Jewish Groups Target Blacks Brave Enough to Talk About Justice in the Middle East; Intimidation is the Name of the Game; Smearing “Insane” McKinney As Muslims’ Pawn; The Missing Terrorist? Calling Scotland Yard: “Where’s Atif?” They Never Booed Dylan!: Tape Transcript Shows Famed Newport Folkfest Dissing of Electric Dylan Not True. The Catcalls were for Peter Yarrow! New Shame from the Liffey Shrike

Remember, the CounterPunch website is supported exclusively by subscribers to our newsletter. If you find our site useful please: Subscribe Now! Or Call Toll Free 1-800-840-3683

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail