- Mar 11, 2015
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Date Filed: 04/27/1987
What Was the McCleskey v. Kemp Case?McCleskey v. Kemp was a historic case in Georgia that showed how racial discrimination perpetuates unfair sentences for black defendants. Few cases involving the intersection of race, criminal law, and procedure have had the reach and impact of McCleskey v. Kemp. The Supreme Court’s decision in McCleskey protected criminal justice laws and policies from being challenged on the basis of racially disparate impact.
Ultimately, the McCleskey decision set the stage for more than 20 years of dramatically increasing racial disparities within the criminal justice system. McCleskey now acts as a substantial barrier to the elimination of racial inequalities in the criminal justice system, perpetuating an unfair racial imbalance that has come to define criminal justice in America.
This was a Supreme Court decision in 1987 saying that racial bias in sentencing, even if proven by credible statistical evidence, could not be challenged under the 14th Amendment unless there was clear evidence of conscious discriminatory intent. What this decision did was close the door on claims of racial bias at every level of the criminal justice system. The only way the court would recognize racial bias is if you actually caught an officer, prosecutor, judge or jury overtly stating racist views about a legal situation. So from stops to sentencing police and court officers could practice racism but unless you actually heard them say so, they could claim plausible deniability.
When people start talking about how the laws are the same for everyone, well...That's just not so.