This article examines how mitigation discourse fails to address the racial implications of presenting to white jurors a narrative of a black capital defendant's dysfunctional family life. Given the plethora of racist configurations in the public sphere of "the black family"—signified most perniciously through the figure of the "welfare queen"—the telling of a black defendant's dysfunctional family life may in fact reinforce what white jurors "already know" about black families. Indeed, since "the black family" figures not as an object of sympathy but of contempt, presenting uncritically mitigating evidence of a black capital defendant's family story may, in the end, provide to a white-dominated capital jury an opportunity to punish not only the black defendant but also "the black family" writ large.

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