oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Selectivity and racial bias in a mandatory death sentence dispensation: a South African case study

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



This contribution reports an analysis of prosecution, sentencing, and execution data for the Republic of South Africa during the late 1980s. The data are of special interest for three reasons. First, we document the operation of a judicial system that was administering a death sentence statute that was essentially a mandatory model in cases of murder. Second, the statistics show a pattern of selectivity depending on the race of a homicide victim that is as extreme as any to be found in the world literature on the death sentence. Finally, the outcome seriously challenges the constitutionality not only of the death sentence dispensation that was the focus of the study, but even more pertinently of the present South African death sentence dispensation with its wider discretion.

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