Program examines race and the death penalty
Public Relations - Published: April 10, 2008
gavel flagWidener Law is teaming up with area civic groups to present an evening forum that showcases legal academics and practitioners in a conversation on capital punishment, led by the woman who co-founded the Cornell Death Penalty Project 15 years ago.

“Race and the death penalty: Is justice color blind?” is free and open to the public. It will be held Tuesday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom on the Delaware campus of Widener Law at 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington. The program will be preceded by a reception in the Barristers’ Club at 6 p.m.

Professor Sheri Lynn Johnson of Cornell University Law School, an expert on the interface of race and issues in criminal procedure, will speak first. Johnson is assistant director of the Cornell Death Penalty Project, an initiative to foster empirical scholarship on the death penalty. She helps students work with lawyers on death penalty cases.

Johnson graduated from Yale Law School in 1979 and went to work in the criminal appeals bureau of the New York Legal Aid Society. She joined the Cornell faculty in 1981 and teaches constitutional and criminal law. She supervises the school’s post-conviction litigation and capital trial clinics. After Johnson speaks, the program will move to a panel discussion featuring:

Race continues to play a strong role in death penalty convictions, according to the Amnesty International report, “US: Death by Discrimination – the Continuing Role of Race in Capital Cases.” The report shows 80 percent of the people executed since the death penalty was reinstated were connected to cases with white victims, although white and African-American people were murder victims in nearly equal numbers. The report also showed more than 20 percent of African-American defendants who were executed had been convicted by all-white juries.

The forum is co-sponsored by the law school and its Law and Inequality Project and the school’s Phi Alpha Delta chapter; Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty; the ACLU-Delaware; Delaware Pacem in Terris and the Wilmington Friends Meeting Ad Hoc Committee on Peace.

For more information call 302.577.5144 or 302.656.2721 or visit