Systemic Injustice Showcase: The Death Sentence

An example of systemic injustice that I read about in the news was the federal execution of Brandon Bernard. Mr. Bernard was sentenced to death in 1999 for his part in a carjacking and the murders of a couple. In 2018, evidence was discovered by the police that proved he did not commit the murders, however he did burn the bodies, an attempt to cover up the crime (McCullough, J). After this evidence was presented to the courts, multiple jurors changed their mind about his death sentence (McCullough, J). Leading up to his execution, thousands of people called, emailed, and tweeted support for the Supreme Court and former President Trump to reverse the decision of Mr. Bernard’s execution. Here is a twitter thread that educated and raised awareness to tens of thousands of people on Twitter:

Mr. Bernard was executed on December 10th, 2020. Bernard’s attorney, Robert C. Owen, released a statement after his death and called for systemic change; this statement can be found from this tweet

His death was an example of how the death penalty disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. The United States is among a list of countries that uses the death penalty to punish the poor and minorities. People who are poor have a more difficult time affording a good lawyer, making it more likely that they will be receive a death sentence (Penal Reform International). Minorities have endured this systemic injustice for many, many years. In the year 2000, 18 prisoners were to be federally executed; of the 18 prisoners, 16 of them were either Asian, Hispanic, or African American (ACLU). This is systemic because both minorities and the poor are not receiving as fair of a sentence as White people or people with a higher SES. This systemic injustice can relate to what we learned in class about the Master and the Slave. In this situation, the Judicial/Prison System is the master and the minorities, and the poor are the slaves. To change this wrong to be righted, we as a society need to demand prison reform and aim to abolish for-profit private prisons. We also need to demand fair trials for everyone regardless of a person’s gender(s), sexuality, race, and ethnicity.


ACLU. (n.d.). Race and the death penalty. Retrieved February 07, 2021, from

McCullough, J. (2020, December 10). In rush of FEDERAL executions, Brandon Bernard and ALFRED Bourgeois were put to death for Texas murders. Retrieved February 07, 2021, from

Penal Reform International. (2015, November 19). The death penalty: Myths & realities. Retrieved February 07, 2021, from

6 thoughts on “Systemic Injustice Showcase: The Death Sentence

  1. Hello, while I was in high school i did a paper on the death sentences and released that a lot of the time not all of the evidence is presented. A lot of the time the person is put to death and then later there is evidence proving their innocence. It is putting an innocent person to death, something that can not be reversed. I agree that there are a lot of minorities who can not afford good lawyers and sometimes get people who represent them who do not believe in them or does not put in a lot of effort in defending them. A lot of poorer people can not pay for their bail as well leaving them to wait for their trial behind bars and that can be dangerous for them. I do not agree with the putting people to death because there has been so many innocent people put to death and that is a terrible thing to happen to some one. Great work

  2. This was a very eye opening read for me. I feel that often times the death penalty is debated, but it is only more based on the morality of the death penalty in general. I did not realize the racial injustice that was present in the death penalty cases. I feel that this is crucial to educate people on, especially since the death penalty is still currently in place. I agree that the inability to pay for proper representation leads to so many people being wrongly convicted. I do not agree with the death penalty at all, but I feel that while it is still in place people need to be properly educated about the racial issues that exist, and policy needs to be put in place to make sure everyone has proper representation to ensure there are no racial injustices in the system.

  3. I’ve read a lot about the justice system and race over the past few years and it’s crazy how it favors the rich. Poor neighborhoods and African American neighborhoods are more likely to receive harsher convictions for the same crime as those that live in higher SES places. These lower-income people then view the police as enemies and a vicious cycle arises that has the justice system unfairly punishing these people. Everything about the system favors money, from bail to lawyers to missed work for the court. It seems like everything is set up so those without money can’t get the same representation as those with lots of money and influence. I really liked your comparison to the Master/Slave dialect but I personally would have connected it to the Subaltern. Those without money can’t get good representation and therefore have their voices silenced in a sense. Overall an interesting look into the justice system, good job!

  4. Thank you for sharing. That was a horrific and deeply unsettling story that really reveals how the justice system can harm minorities. The prison system in general contains a disproportionate amount of black Americans, and on average black individuals get significantly longer sentences for the same crimes as their white counterparts. Furthermore, the death penalty is already an inhumane and highly questionable practice before you introduce the idea that it could be used disproportionately on black individuals.

  5. Hello!
    This post was very well written. I definitely agree that the death sentence is skewed towards minorities and less wealthier people. I think in most cases, the death penalty is quite inhumane. I still think that it is crazy and baffling that he did not commit the crime, yet he served the death penalty. That is horrifying to think about.

  6. Thank you for sharing such a well written and great showcase. It is sadly very true how the death sentence disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. I think your showcase was a great example to discuss and shine light on the subject for the rest of us. It is not right how such a severe and irreversible punishment is used in our country especially when the majority of its recipients are the poor and minorities. This example is crazy to think about to, knowing that he did not even commit the crime he was punished for.

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