There has been a tremendous decline in the use of the death penalty in the United States. Recent research using county-level data shows that a small minority of locales in the country account for death sentences and even fewer for executions. Drawing on theoretical work that seeks to account for why these locales continue to use capital punishment, we provide in this chapter a thick description of Maricopa County, Arizona, one of the most active death penalty locales in the contemporary United States. In doing so, we demonstrate how capital punishment operates in a field of violently defended racial boundaries. Our chapter shows the roles of various local actors across time in fortifying such racial boundaries through historical white terrorism and more recent reinforcement of zones of racial exclusion that are embodied especially in communicated fears of “illegal immigrant gangs.” We contend that the case of Maricopa County points to the importance of attending to racist localisms as a catalyst for the continued implementation of the death penalty in the United States.
Thanks to Mona Lynch and Marjorie Zatz for providing extremely helpful feedback on drafts of this chapter. Thanks to the Arizona Capital Representation Project for providing charging data from Maricopa County. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
Fleury-Steiner, B., Kaplan, P. and Longazel, J. (2015), "Racist Localisms and the Enduring Cultural Life of America’s Death Penalty: Lessons from Maricopa County, Arizona", Studies in Law, Politics, and Society (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 66), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 63-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1059-433720150000066003
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