Life Stories: How Institutional Racism Plays a Role in Deciding Who Lives and Who Dies at the Hands of the State

Kiesha T. Warren-Gordon
June 2005
Journal of Intergroup Relations;Summer2005, Vol. 32 Issue 2, p59
Academic Journal
The purpose of this essay is to address the role that race plays in decisions regarding the death penalty. In other words, I'm interested in exploring the role of race, racism, and racial (mis)perceptions play in instances where innocent people are sentenced to death. My objective is accomplished by citing two cases of men falsely convicted of crimes. The first case involves a man who spent 30 plus years in prison for a crime that he was later found innocent of committing. Using narrative inquiry', I examine this case and the circumstances that led to the ultimate release of Tim Howard. The second case is highlighted in Sister Helen Prejean's (2005) book The Death of Innocents. In Prejean's book she highlights the case of Dobie Gillis Williams where the death penalty was carried out yet later his guilt was severely questioned. This essay concludes by highlighting the similarities of these two cases and articulating the role race played in their convictions.


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