Using the Death Penalty to Get Re-Elected

Alabama judges seem to impose the ultimate judgment more often in an election year.

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Where are the congressional hearings on the findings unearthed in these reports and cases? Where is the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was specifically empowered to "study and collect information relating to discrimination or a denial of equal protection of laws under the Constitution because of race, color ... or in the administration of justice," and to engage in the kind of long-term fact gathering that this very serious problem requires?

Without further delay, we need a federal inquiry into the findings of the EJI report. But we also need a broader, more comprehensive examination of our criminal-justice system and the persistent and pernicious role that race continues to play in how justice is meted out, from encounters with the police to conviction and sentencing. 

Whether the inquiry comes from Congress or the Commission on Civil Rights, or even from the Department of Justice, something must be done at the federal level. The U.S. can no longer turn a blind eye toward an uncomfortable but painfully obvious truth: that the legitimacy of our justice system is in deep peril. Outrage about the Casey Anthony verdict would be better directed toward addressing the widespread injustices in our criminal-justice system that have been amply documented by EJI and others, rather than a myopic focus on one admittedly disturbing case served up by television networks for our entertainment.

Sherrilyn A. Ifill writes about the law for The Root.

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is a civil rights lawyer and professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

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