AuthorBaumgartner, Frank R.

Abstract I. Homicide Victimization Rates II. Death Sentences and Executions III. Historical Trends IV. Colonial and Antebellum Era V. War, Reconstruction and Post-Reconstruction Era VI. Jim Crow Era Conclusion Being a victim of homicide in Louisiana is heavily dependent on race, gender, and age. Young black males face extremely high rates of homicide victimization compared to other categories. However, the death penalty is very rarely applied in those cases where the victim is a black male.

This study follows methodology established in the detailed analysis of race of victim discrepancies in North Carolina between homicides and executions (Baumgartner, 2010), and in the demonstration nationwide of similar dramatic discrepancies (Baumgartner et al., 2015). This 2015 review of national statistics covering all US executions since 1976 notes that only ten whites have been executed in the modern era for the crime of killing a black male, with six additional cases where a black male was one of multiple victims, including victims of other races or genders. None of these cases were from Louisiana. In fact, we have found no case in the entire history of Louisiana where a white person was executed for killing a black male. (2)

The data below demonstrates stark disparities in the use of the death penalty, depending on the race and gender of the victim. This data covers the period of the modern death penalty era, after executions were re-started nationally in 1976, through the end of 2011. Death sentence and execution data continue through July 2015.


20,942 Louisianians have been the victims of homicides in the modern death penalty era. This averages out to almost 600 homicides per year. Of these,

* 81 percent have been male, and

* 72 percent have been African-American (the source-data term is "black").

Table 1 shows the number of homicide victims by race and gender. (3)

The table shows that:

* 61 percent of homicide victims in Louisiana since 1976 have been black males;

* 19 percent have been white males;

* 12 percent have been black females,

* 7 percent have been white females, and

* 1 percent have been persons of other or unknown race or gender.

The killers of these different categories of victims have greatly varying chances of being executed for their crimes.


Louisiana has sentenced 225 people to death (in 241 trials, including retrials) since 1976, for murders that had 316 victims. The victims are characterized in the center columns of Table 2.

Louisiana has executed 28 of these individuals. Together, they had a total of 38 victims. The right columns of Table 2 show the demographics of the victims of the executed.

Table 2 shows that while black males constitute 61 percent of the victims of homicides, they are just 8 percent of the victims of those who were later executed. White females, by contrast, represent 7 percent of the overall victims, but 47 percent of those for whom the murderer was later put to death.

Table 3 combines information from Tables 1 and 2 to show the dramatic differences in the rates of execution for those who kill different types of victims.

The killers of 316 homicide victims have been sentenced to death in Louisiana since 1976, and the killers of 38 victims have been executed. With a total of 20,942 homicides having occurred, it is clear that only a minute proportion of all murders are punished by death. Fewer than 2 percent of all homicides lead to a death sentence, and fewer than 0.2 percent lead to an execution, as the bottom row of Table 3 shows.

The dramatic differences in the likelihood of the use of capital punishment by race and gender of the victim are clear whether we look at death sentences or executions. The two columns to the right of Table 3 above show the rate of capital punishment per 1,000 homicides. With the killers of 89 white females sentenced to death out of a total of 1,563 homicides, the rate of death sentencing is 56.94 per 1,000 (or 5.7 percent); the rate of execution is 11.52...

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