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People of the State of New York v. Taylor (Challenging capital punishment on racial bias grounds)


The issue in this case is whether or not the Court should consider the history of racial bias and prejudice in the United States when deciding whether or not to stay an execution. In early 2001, John Taylor was indicted for murder in the first degree and additional lesser crimes in connection to a robbery and shooting that took place on May 24, 2000. Taylor was accused of shooting two people to death and ordering his accomplice to shoot the remaining three people. He was tried in New York State Supreme Court, Queens County, and the jury sentenced him to death. Taylor appealed the verdict on the grounds that he was given an unfair trial.

On Nov. 9, 2006, the NYCLU, the NAACP, numerous other civil rights organizations and elected officials filed an amicus curiae brief in the New York State Court of Appeals on behalf of Taylor. The brief argued that the court must not allow Taylor to be executed because the decision to execute Taylor was subject to racial bias. A decision to sentence a person to death takes into account whether death is an “appropriate” punishment for that person; because this judgment is subjective, it cannot be free from racial bias. Thus, the brief argued, if the Court were to uphold the decision to sentence Taylor to death, it would be sanctioning racial bias. The case will be argued on Sept. 10, 2007.

State Supreme Court, Queens County, Indictment No. 1045/2000, 1012/2001 (amicus) 

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