Law and Statistics in Conflict: Reflections on McCleskey v. Kemp



Warren McCleskey is a black man who was sentenced to death in 1978 for the murder of a white police officer in Atlanta, Georgia. He challenged the constitutionality of his sentence on the grounds that Georgia administered its death-sentencing laws during the period 1973 to 1979 in a racially discriminatory manner. McCleskey’s lawyers based this claim on two quantitative studies of Georgia’s death-sentencing system that we conducted in the early 1980s. In McCleskey v. Kemp (1987), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected these claims by a 5 to 4 vote.


Death Penalty Racial Discrimination Death Sentence Employment Discrimination Armed Robbery 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arkin, S. (1980). Discrimination and arbitrariness in capital punishment: An analysis of post-Furman cases in Dade Co., Fla. 1973–76. Stanford Law Review, 33, 89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldus, D., & Cole, J. (1980). Statistical proof of discrimination. Colorado Springs: Shepard’s McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  3. Baldus, D., Woodworth, G., & Pulaski, C. (1990). Equal justice and the death penalty: A legal and empirical analysis. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barnett, A. (1982). An underestimated threat to multiple regression analyses used in job discrimination cases. Industrial Relations Law Journal, 5, 156.Google Scholar
  5. Bazemore v. Friday, 478 U.S. 385 (1986).Google Scholar
  6. Bienen, L., Weiner, N., Denno, D., Allison, P., & Mills, D. (1988). The reimposition of capital punishment in New Jersey: The role of prosecutorial discretion. Rutgers Law Review, 41, 21.Google Scholar
  7. Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., Martin, S., & Tonry, M. (eds.). (1983). Research on sentencing: The search for reform. Washington DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  8. Booth v. Maryland, 482 U.S. 496 (1987).Google Scholar
  9. Bowers, W. (1983). The pervasiveness of arbitrariness and discrimination under post-Furman statutes. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 74, 1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowers, W., & Pierce, G. (1980). Arbitrariness and discrimination under post-Furman capital statutes. Crime and Delinquency, 26, 563, 599.Google Scholar
  11. Braun, L. (1980). Statistics and the law: Hypothesis testing and its application to title VII cases. Hastings Law Journal, 32, 59.Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, T. (1984). Regression analysis in Title VII cases: Minimum standards, comparable worth, and other issues where law and statistics meet. Stanford Law Review, 36, 1299.Google Scholar
  13. Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482 (1977).Google Scholar
  14. Connolly, W. & Peterson, D. (1980). Use of statistics in equal employment opportunity litigation. New York: Law Journal Seminars Press.Google Scholar
  15. Dempster, A. (1988). Employment discrimination and statistical science, Statistical Science, 3, 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fienberg, S. (1989). The evolving role of statistical assessments as evidence in the courts. New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Finkelstein, M. (1966). The application of statistical decision theory to the jury discrimination cases. Harvard Law Review, 80, 338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finkelstein, M. (1980). The judicial reception of multiple regression studies in race and sex discrimination cases. Columbia Law Review, 80, 737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fisher, F. (1980). Multiple regression in legal proceedings. Columbia Law Review, 80, 702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972).Google Scholar
  21. Gastwirth, J. (1980). Estimating the demographic mix of the available labor force. Monthly Labor Review, 104, 50.Google Scholar
  22. Geimer, W., & Amsterdam, A. (1988). Why jurors vote life or death: Operative factors in ten Florida death penalty cases. American Journal of Criminal Law, 15, 1.Google Scholar
  23. General Accounting Office (Feb. 1990). Death penalty sentencing: Research indicates pattern of racial disparities. GAO/GGD-90–57.Google Scholar
  24. Goldstein, R. (1985). Two types of statistical errors in employment discrimination cases. Jurimetrics Journal, 26, 32.Google Scholar
  25. Gross, S., & Mauro, R. (1989). Death and discrimination: Racial disparities in capital sentencing. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Haworth, J. & Haworth, G. (1986). Employment decisions: Does your analysis of selections match the real process? Employee Relations Law Journal, 12, 356.Google Scholar
  27. Hazelwood School Dist. v. United States, 433 U.S. 299 (1977).Google Scholar
  28. International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977).Google Scholar
  29. Jones v. Georgia, 389 U.S. 24 (1967).Google Scholar
  30. Kalven, H., & Zeisel, H. (1966). The American jury. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  31. Kaye, D. (1982). The numbers game: Statistical inference in discrimination cases. Michigan Law Review, 80, 833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kaye, D. & Aickin, M. (1986). Statistical methods in discrimination litigation. New York: M. Dekker.Google Scholar
  33. Kennedy, R. (1988). McCleskey v. Kemp: Race, capital punishment and the Supreme Court. Harvard Law Review, 101, 1388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kleck, G. (1985). Life support for ailing hypotheses: Modes for summarizing the evidence for racial discrimination in sentencing. Law and Human Behavior, 9, 271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Klemm, M. (1986). The determinants of capital sentencing in Louisiana: 1979–84. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of New Orleans.Google Scholar
  36. Manning, J. (1982). Multiple regression analysis: A statistical approach to assessing and correcting salary inequity. University of Illinois Law Forum, 1982, 449.Google Scholar
  37. McCabe, G., Jr. (1980). The interpretation of regression analysis results in sex and race discrimination problems. American Statistician, 34, 212.Google Scholar
  38. McCleskey v. Zant, 580 F. Supp. 338, N.D. Ga. (1984).Google Scholar
  39. McCleskey v. Kemp, 753 F.2d 877, 11th Cir. (1985).Google Scholar
  40. McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987).Google Scholar
  41. McCleskey v. Zant, 111 S. Ct. 1454 (1991).Google Scholar
  42. Meier, P., Sacks, J., & Zabell, S.L. (1984). What happened in Hazelwood: Statistics, employment discrimination, and the 80% rule. American Bar Foundation Research Journal, 1984, No. 1, 139–186.Google Scholar
  43. Murphy, E. (1984). Application of the death penalty in Cook County. Illinois Bar Journal, 73, 93.Google Scholar
  44. Nakell, B., & Hardy, K. (1987). Arbitrariness of the death penalty. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Paternoster, R. (1984). Prosecutorial discretion in requesting the death penalty: A case of victim-based racial discrimination. Law and Society Review, 18, 437, 465.Google Scholar
  46. Payne v. Tennessee, 111 S. Ct. 2597 (1991).Google Scholar
  47. Radelet, M. (1981). Racial characteristics and the imposition of the death penalty. American Sociological Review, 46, 923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rubinfeld, D. Econometrics in the court room. Columbia Law Review, 85, 1048.Google Scholar
  49. Senate Report Number 101–170, 1989, p. 5.Google Scholar
  50. Sims v. Georgia, 389 U.S. 404 (1967).Google Scholar
  51. Smith, A., Jr., and Abram, T. (1981). Quantitative analysis and proof of employment discrimination. University of Illinois Law Review, 1981, 33.Google Scholar
  52. Sugrue, T., & Fairley, W. (1983). A case of unexamined assumptions: The use and measure of the statistical analysis of Castaneda/Hazelwood in discrimination litigation. Boston College Law Review, 24, 925–960.Google Scholar
  53. Turner v. Murray, 476 U.S. 28 (1986).Google Scholar
  54. Vito, G. & Keil, T. (1988). Capital sentencing in Kentucky: An analysis of the factors influencing decision making in the post-Gregg period. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 79, 483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229 (1976).Google Scholar
  56. Whitus v. Georgia, 385 U.S. 545 (1967).Google Scholar
  57. Zant v. Stephens, 462 U.S. 862 (1983).Google Scholar
  58. Zeisel, H. (1981). Race bias in the administration of the death penalty: The Florida experience. Harvard Law Review, 85, 461.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations