A new report looking at the uneven geographic distribution of capital punishment shows Alameda County is ninth in the nation and fourth in California when it comes to condemning people to death row.
At the start of 2013, there were 43 people sentenced to die from Alameda County, according to the report released Wednesday by the Death Penalty Information Center. The report found that even as death sentences and executions grow rarer in the United States, two percent of counties account for 52 percent of all executions since 1976 and 56 percent of all condemned inmates.
The report argues that aggressive prosecutors in these counties shift the financial burdens of capital punishment to all taxpayers, who are usually unaware of the huge costs that follow a death sentence.
While California has the highest number of people on death row, the state has executed only 16 people since capital punishment was restored in 1978. Since 1976, 82 percent of all executions have been in the South, with Texas accounting for nearly half of those.
The North-South divide exists in Alameda County as well. The report noted an article published this year by a law professor at the University of San Francisco showing how prosecutors in Alameda County were more likely to seek the death penalty when the crime was committed in parts of the county where whites were the majority.
Steven Shatz studied first-degree murder convictions in Alameda County from 1978 to 2001 and concluded that prosecutors were less likely to pursue death sentences, and juries were less likely to impose death, when the murder occurred in neighborhoods with black majorities. Shatz and his co-author argue that their findings should support constitutional challenges to capital punishment.