Is there evidence of racial bias in death penalty sentencing? Many U.S. states allow capital punishment for certain crimes. Some people argue that an “eye for an eye” is a fair punishment, while others believe the death penalty is unfairly imposed.

In this lesson, students analyze almost thirty years’ worth of data summarized in n-way frequency tables and discuss whether they see evidence of racial bias in who receives the death penalty and who doesn’t.

Students will

  • Interpret two-way frequency tables summarizing categorical data
  • Interpret relative frequencies – including joint and conditional frequencies – in the context of the data

Before you begin

This is a serious topic for a mature audience. Be prepared to steer the conversation to the question at hand -- "Is there evidence of racial bias in death penalty cases?" -- rather than to broadly debate the existence of the death penalty.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices