Capital Punishment, Latinos, and the United States Legal System: Doing Justice or an Illusion of Justice, Legitimated Oppression, and Reinforcement of Structural Hierarchies


As the twenty-first century progresses, the influence of race, ethnicity, gender, and class in crime and punishment continues to be a pressing and polemic issue. With various antisocial control movements taking place, particularly in response to the Trump administration, the nature of crime and punishment is once again being redefined nationally and abroad. As in the past, this new punitive cycle of social control has revived support for what many consider to be the sanction of last resort: capital punishment. But executions, and capital punishment in general, are not directly governed by crime trends. Rather, the simultaneous interaction of historical and contemporary legacies, conflictive race and ethnic relations, and the influence of various extralegal factors like citizenship, nationality, language, accent, skin color, and economics influence the use of such punishment. The history of the death penalty in the United States is a story shaped
and reshaped by the race and ethnicity of the offender and victim, and further fused by other intertwining factors at different points in time and geography. But because of the traditional adoption of a racially dichotomous black/white approach in investigating capital punishment, little is actually known about the experiences of executed Mexicans and other Latinos. As such, to debunk historical myths about the effects of race and ethnicity in capital punishment in the United States one needs to document the Mexican and Latino experiences which have been left out of the pages of history.