Do minorities disproportionately fail the death penalty IQ test because of racist tests?


There are a lot of claims about how supposedly objective tests discriminate against minorities. Most recently there are claims that tests for teachers have too many "white questions". Now the Supreme Court has ruled that killers must have a certain minimum IQ to be executed.

The man convicted of murdering the mother of former NFL running back Warrick Dunn cannot be executed, says the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a narrow 5-4 decision in favor of Kevan Brumfield. The high court decided because Brumfield has an I.Q. below 75, should not be put to death.

Brumfield will instead serve life in prison for the 1993 murder of Cpl. Betty Smothers of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Legal analyst Tim Meche describes the case as far-reaching. ''What they said, essentially, is that Mr. Brumfield met the standards that he is mentally retarded,'' said Meche. ''This is an extremely significant opinion that will cause shock waves not just in Louisiana but around the nation.''

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Kevan Brumfeld is Black. That started me thinking. If tests are unfairly biased against minorities, then perhaps minority death row inmates disproprotionately fail IQ deaths meant to measure if the are suitable to be executed. Perhaps, if Brumfeld had gotten a genuinely fair IQ test, he could have passed it. How fair is it to Brumfeld to give him a racially biased test?

I did some research but could find no evidence for or against racial bias in IQ tests for the death penalty. But with even the possibility of bias, you'd think the NAACP and La Raza would be all over this, but they're not.

Perhaps we should get away from using IQ tests to determine IQ in death penalty cases. Perhaps we should use a more holistic approach, like on college applications. Consider the whole person. We should find out what hobbies and outside interests Brumfeld had, for example (besides killing people). And we should consider diversity as well. Would Brumfeld's execution bring diversity to Louisiana's death row? I don't know the racial makeup there, but if it were overwhelmingly white and Hispanic, a case could be made to admit Brumfeld to death row on diversity grounds despite low test scores.
If you're a white liberal, are you going to be worried that Brumfeld won't get the same shot at execution as everyone else?

(Abridged version originally published in AT)



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