The Post-Gazette reported recently that fair treatment in Pennsylvania's court systems was to be discussed by a committee of judges ("Judges Meet Here to Discuss Fair Treatment," May 6 Web). Pennsylvania is only 25 years behind other states like New Jersey, Washington, California and New York, all of which addressed the topic of racial and ethnic fairness in court systems long ago.
But a study that examines courtroom biases is severely overdue in Pennsylvania, a state with a lot on the line: the hundreds of individuals on death row. This discussion is particularly crucial when we consider the findings of law professor David Baldus and statistician George Woodworth, who analyzed the impact of race on capital cases in Philadelphia and found that the defendant is 3.9 times more likely to receive the death penalty if he or she is black.
Community Organizer, Western Pennsylvania
Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty