Obama Decries ‘Racial Bias, Uneven Application Of The Death Penalty’

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama Friday tried to raise his supporters’ long-standing opposition to jury-directed death penalties by suggesting to a French reporter that Americans jurors and judges may be biased against African-Americans.

“What happened in Oklahoma was deeply troubling,” said Obama, referring to a recent execution of an African-American man in Oklahoma.

Pew report in March showed that only 36 percent of African-Americans and 40 percent Latinos support the death penalty. In contrast, roughly 63 percent of whites support the death penalty.

In Oklahoma, the condemned man did not die quickly because his vein collapsed, hindering passage of the first of three execution drugs. Fifteen years ago, the man had kidnapped four people. He eventually executed one of them — an 18-year-old teenager — after she watched her grave being dug for 20 minutes. The murderer was condemned after testimony from multiple witnesses.

Instead of sidestepping a foreign reporter’s question about a state-level issue in Oklahoma, Obama chose to expand the Oklahoma case into a veiled attack on the death penalty.

“We have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty, situations in which there were individuals on death row who were later on were discovered to have been innocent … and all these I think do raise significant questions about how the death penalty has been applied,” he claimed in the Rose Garden press conference.

“I’ll be discussing with [Attorney General] Eric Holder and others to get me an analysis of what steps have been taken,” he said.

“We do have to, as a society, ask ourselves some difficult and profound questions about these issues,” he claimed, even though the death penalty is supported by roughly 55 percent of the public, and is opposed by 37 percent.

Obama made sure to offset his veiled opposition to the death penalty by saying he supported its use in “heinous crimes,” such as mass-murders or the the killing of children.

He did not say if the killing of the teenager in Oklahoma counted as heinous.

Amid poor poll numbers and a piddling economy, he is trying to shift attention to issues that can revive support among progressives and African-Americans for his 2014 mid-term campaign.

Obama is also working to boost progressive turnout by shifting media and public attention to government reports about sexual-assault in the military and colleges, his calls for higher pay for women, and to his support for contraception and abortion.

The question over the death penalty was offered by the French reporter during a joint press conference with German President Angela Merkel.

In most European countries, the population supports the death penalty. But the European establishment, including the media, viscerally opposes any death penalty, which would allow a jury of ordinary people to condemn people — regardless of their wealth or station in life — to death. Americans’ use of the death penalty is widely regarded by European elitists as emblematic of a supposedly violent, armed and crude society.

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