PolitiFact: Are African-Americans 'grossly over-represented' on Florida's death row?

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 09, 2017

With the recent statement by State Attorney Aramis Ayala that she wouldn't pursue the death penalty in any case, debate heated up on both sides of the death penalty argument, and that led to a state Senator to write an op-ed piece that talked about racial differences when it comes to Florida's death row.

State Senator Randolph Bracy (D-District 11) from Orlando wrote this in the New York times:

"African-Americans are grossly overrepresented on Florida’s death row."

Our partners at PolitiFact looked into Bracy's claim to see if it was accurate.  PolitiFact reporter Joshua Gillin says that Bracy's claim rates MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter.  Gillin says the numbers add up.

"When you look at it in terms of population, comparing statewide numbers and death row numbers, the results are very different," said Gillin.  "According to 2015 census data, African-Americans make up 17 percent of Florida's population.  Compare that to Florida's death row, where the 371 African-American inmates there account for 39 percent of those on death row, which is quite a difference."

Gillin notes that the raw numbers don't really tell all of the story.  "We looked into what causes the disparity," said Gillin.  "What we found when we looked at the studies is that the difference in numbers comes about because of why people are tried and sentenced for death, and it actually involves the race of the victim.  72 percent of executions in Florida were attributed to cases where the victim was white.  And as for the reverse?  No white person has ever been executed in Florida for killing a black person."

One other statistic comes through in the research, and that revolves around gender.  "There are way less women on Florida's death row than there are men," said Gillin.  "Obviously, the state's population is more balanced when it comes to men and women, so there is a disparity there, as well."

Overall, Sen. Bracy has the numbers in line to back him up, although there are disparities, which leads to a MOSTLY TRUE rating on PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter.

 

SOURCES: African-Americans on Florida's death row