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Study Case Law

The following three individuals have been accused of murder, charged, arrested and sit in jail awaiting trial. Their crimes, including their victim, are identical- they are accused of murdering their postal worker as they delivered their mail one day. There is no known motive but also no other suspects.

Defendant #1- A young white woman who is living in poverty in the rural south. She cannot afford an attorney and has been assigned a public defended for her case. Her public defended has never taken part in a murder trial. She grew up in and out of the foster care system, dropped out of high school before graduating and became pregnant in her teens. Around the same time, she started using drugs which got her in trouble with the law. Before the murder, she had recently become sober and was working towards reunification with her own children.

Defendant #2- A Black male teenager from a middle class family. His parents have a retained a attorney friend to defend their son. He is a good student and active participant in the jazz band. He hoped to go to college one day for music. One of three kids, his parents have been married for 20 years, are college educated and work in healthcare. He goes to the local high school in the suburbs of a major city and is a devout Muslim.

Defendant #3- A wealthy Asian man in his mid-40's who is able to afford the best legal services money has to offer. A second generation immigrant, he was raised by hard working parents and opened his first restaurant at 25. He is still able to speak some of his native tongue which helps his business considerable with both staff and clientele and holds some views of Buddhism. After the success of this first restaurant, he opened more, donated to charitable causes in his community and raised his working class family to considerable wealth. Too busy for a family, he remained unmarried and started college when he turned 40 hoping to earn his business degree.

One is found not guilty, one is given a life sentence and another is sentenced to death.

Tell us how you believe each defendant is sentenced and how you came to your conclusions.
Then, explain what you think are the most important factors. What are the inequalities and what roles do race and class play?

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