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How stereotypes go from hurtful to lethal

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Stereotypes and generalizations based on things like race or gender aren’t just philosophically wrong. There are real impacts for people in Iowa, and the consequences couldn’t be more real for the first female of Hispanic heritage in Texas to be sentenced to death.

On the brink of an unjust execution

The appeal came just two days before. The execution stayed because the crime she was convicted of never happened. Her case is just one example of the lethal dangers that stereotypes in criminal sentencing can have when law enforcement and others involved in the legal system are influenced by these prejudices.

There have been numerous documented cases of unfortunate individuals targeted unreasonably by law enforcement or allowed to slip through the cracks of the legal system due to their cultural heritage. A person’s race or the way they look can become a disadvantage and even a hazard when law enforcement is making decisions based on stereotypes.

How to stop this from happening

To eliminate stereotyping from the criminal legal system, those who are involved will have to find the gray areas in an investigation, targeting those aspects and creating mechanisms for accountability. Although the facts are always what’s most important, people at all levels of the criminal legal system have to use their gut to some degree.

This goes for detectives, police officers, attorneys and judges. At certain times, these human beings acting in positions of authority must rely on their own intuition, and whenever that happens, there’s the potential that prejudices or other biases will sway the official’s decisions.

If those in positions of power don’t face these biases head-on and instead choose to bury them, it may have potentially deadly outcomes for those on the other side of the law. This truth was felt by the public when the first Hispanic woman to ever receive the death penalty in Texas was scheduled for execution on April 27th of 2022, a punishment that was barely stopped in time.



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