Defendants who Claim Stand Your Ground Defense more likely to Win if Victim is Black

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An American Bar Association (ABA) study (pdf) has confirmed that those who claim a stand-your-ground defense are more likely to win their cases if their victim is black.


The ABA’s National Task Force on Stand Your Ground laws found that when a white shooter kills a black victim, the shooting is 350% more likely to be ruled justified than when a white shooter kills a white victim.


“We’ve heard nothing good about stand-your-ground laws,” task force co-chairman Jack Middleton said. “In fact, the more you look at them, the more problems you find. It’s our hope that the ABA as a whole will take a position against these laws.”


Stand-your-ground laws entered the spotlight in 2012, when black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while carrying iced tea and Skittles in Sanford, Florida. His killer, George Zimmerman, claimed he felt threatened by Martin and successfully invoked Florida’s stand-your-ground law in his defense.


The ABA task force recommended that states that have stand-your-ground laws repeal them because the laws don’t reduce the homicide rate. A Texas A&M study cited by the ABA reported that states with stand-your-ground laws saw an 8% increase in homicides. “Eight percent!” task force member David Harris said. “Could you imagine if your city’s homicide rate went up by 8%?” The ABA report also cited no decrease in theft, burglary or assault crimes in states with stand-your-ground laws.


The ABA task force findings are in line with other studies on the subject. A Tampa Bay Times investigation in 2012 showed 73% of stand-your-ground defendants who killed a black person got off, compared to 59% of those who killed white victims.


The task force also pointed out the opposition of many law enforcement personnel to the laws. “Instead of encouraging peaceful resolution through the rule of law, stand-your-ground laws encourage violent actions,” said Joseph J. Vince, a former officer in the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “They place police officers at risk and give criminals an automatic defense.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

States With Stand-Your-Ground Laws Have Seen An Increase In Homicides, Reports Task Force (by Victor Li, ABA Journal)

National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws, Preliminary Report (American Bar Association) (pdf)

Killings by Whites Deemed “Justified” Far more Often than Killings by Blacks (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Are “Stand Your Ground” Laws Warped to Favor White People? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Miguel 9 years ago
Except that the Tampa Bay Times own study of the cases in Florida show that blacks are highly favored in the outcome of SYG. As of today, 9 cases where SYG was called, 9 blacks did not get it, 27 were favored and 9 are pending.

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