Racial Bias and ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: What the Data Show

Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 2013

During the closing arguments of the George Zimmerman trial, defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked the courtroom to be quiet for four long minutes. When he at last broke the silence, he said those four minutes were the amount of time that Trayvon Martin had had to go home.

Mr. O’Mara left no doubts: It was Trayvon’s decision not to go home, but instead to “plan” an attack on Mr. Zimmerman, punching and beating him, that caused Zimmerman to fatally shoot him. Because he did not go home, O’Mara said, “Trayvon Martin caused his own death.”

It is an argument, it seems, that was successful; the jury on July 13 found Zimmerman not guilty of murder or manslaughter. But it is also an argument that raises deep questions about how notions of self-defense have evolved in the era of “stand your ground” laws, and whether those changes are allowing racial fears to influence juries.

The implication in O’Mara’s argument was that Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, who was armed, and who ignored a 911 dispatcher’s instructions not to follow Trayvon, had more of a right to stand his ground than did 17-year-old Trayvon, who was black. And the verdict suggests the jurors agreed.

Data from other states with stand-your-ground laws indicate that the Zimmerman jury was not alone in being sympathetic to such a claim. Whites are significantly more successful claiming self-defense when their attacker is black than blacks are when fighting back against an attacker who is white, according to one study.

To some, such findings are a consequence of the pandemic of violence plaguing elements of the black community. But to others, they suggest that stand-your-ground laws have allowed perceptions of the black community–sometimes accurate, sometimes not–to become a legal justification for using deadly force.

Stand-your-ground laws have begun to change the calculus of self-defense in the United States. The idea behind them is to “expand the legal justification for the use of lethal force in self-defense, thereby lowering the expected cost of using lethal force and increasing the expected cost of committing violent crime,” say researchers Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra in a Texas A&M study.

Statistics included in the study bore that out, showing that justifiable homicides rose by 8 percent in stand-your-ground states, amounting to some 600 additional killings.

The laws have spread quickly. Since Florida passed the first stand-your-ground law in 2005, at least 30 other states have followed suit, either though legislative action or court decisions.

{snip}

The Zimmerman verdict fit into a long narrative of juries refusing to convict white vigilantes on serious charges–from Bernhard Goetz in 1987 to the police in the first Rodney King trial in 1992–for violence against black men. But a study by John Roman of the Urban Institute suggests that stand-your-ground laws could be amplifying the trend.

In states with stand-your-ground laws, the shooting of a black person by a white person is found justifiable 17 percent of the time, while the shooting of a white person by a black person is deemed justifiable just over 1 percent of the time, according to the study. In states without stand-your-ground laws, white-on-black shootings are found justified just over 9 percent of the time.

Such findings “show that it’s just harder for black defendants to assert stand-your-ground defense if the victim is white, and easier for whites to raise a stand-your-ground defense if the victims are black,” says Darren Hutchinson, a law professor and civil rights law expert at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “The bottom line is that it’s really easy for juries to accept that whites had to defend themselves against persons of color.”

{snip}

On one hand, young black men are disproportionately involved in violent crime. While blacks represent 12 percent of the US population, they make up 55 percent of its homicide victims, the vast majority of those perpetrated by other blacks.

{snip}

An investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times last year added more nuance to the issue of stand your ground. It analyzed 200 stand-your-ground cases in Florida and found that defendants who killed a black person were found not guilty 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person were found not guilty 59 percent of the time.

The paper noted that the discrepancy was due in part to the fact that black shooting victims were more likely to be armed and in the process of committing a crime when shot. {snip}

{snip}

It’s been widely pointed out that the Zimmerman trial was not a stand-your-ground case. But for all intents and purposes, it was. While it’s true that Zimmerman chose not to request an immunity hearing under the stand-your-ground law, he still has that option if there is a civil lawsuit. If he had requested that hearing, the law would have required he take the stand and explain his actions, which the defense in this case did not want to do.

{snip}

Yet in Florida, some of the most ardent defenders of the law have been black defense attorneys. The reason: Their black, often young, clients are the most successful users of the law. Indeed, data show that black defendants have a high success rate in invoking stand your ground in black-on-black violence. In fact, if all cases are taken into account, black defendants have a higher success rate in claiming stand your ground than do white defendants, and they attempt to claim stand your ground at higher rates.

{snip}

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  • Puggg

    Statistics included in the study bore that out, showing that justifiable homicides rose by 8 percent in stand-your-ground states, amounting to some 600 additional killings.

    Look at the other side of that coin. In those instances of the 600 additional killings, SYG means that the person who was killed was the guilty perpetrator of the incident, not the innocent victim of the incident, which they might have been without SYG.

    • Johnny Squire

      The author certainly plays fast and loose with statistics and logic. How many of those 600 hundred justifiable homicides prevented the murders or other crimes against those who defended themselves and/or defended others by using lethal force? It is apparent Mr. Jonsson believes the lives of criminals are more important than the lives of the innocent, and the lives of blacks are more important than everyone else.

      And another thing: George Zimmerman, Bernhard Goetz, and the cops who whipped Rodney King’s ass are not vigilantes.

      And another: It wasn’t and never will be a Stand Your Ground issue, “for all intents and purposes”. Just because Zimmerman had the option to use it as a defense doesn’t change the facts of the case. The moment Trayvon had Zimmerman pinned to the ground it became a case of simple self-defense.

      Morons like Mr. Jonsson think Stand Your Ground gives people the right to simple self-defense. Simple self-defense is a basic human right. But Stand Your Ground merely removes the Duty to Retreat from places you have a right to be. This is where I have trouble believing that SYG has been used by those during the course of committing a crime: how is it someone has a right to be someplace while engaged in a criminal act?

      • Major

        “But Stand Your Ground merely removes the Duty to Retreat from places you have a right to be.”

        Bravo..Badda bing….that’s SYG in a nutshell. Thanks.

      • me

        Because the Bantu’s rights to ‘act naturally’ are more important than ‘Whitey’s’ rights to life.

      • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

        You know, if you’re gonna bring facts into this, then you’re gonna have to be branded a thought-criminal.

      • Oil Can Harry

        The fact that the author- a Swedish immigrant- referred to on duty LAPD cops as vigilantes shows his idiocy.

      • Strider73

        I have trouble believing that SYG can apply during the commission of a
        crime: how is it someone has a right to be someplace while engaged in a
        criminal act?

        SYG does not apply. The Florida self-defense law makes that crystal clear, and I am sure the same is true in every other state.

        BTW, everyone seems to have forgotten the other important part of both SYG and the castle doctrine — the immunity from civil liability. Shutting down the “ghetto lottery” is what really has the Bantus hip-hopping mad.

  • So CAL Snowman

    Of course in the prevailing ideology of the Former United States (FUSA) we are all equal, so Whites and blacks MUST have equal outcomes regarding Stand Your Ground Laws. The fact that they do not means that the justice system and indeed America is riddled with institutional racism designed to keep the black man down. Now when you couple the above prevailing ideology with dumbed down public education and Universities that do not stress individual critical thought, it’s no wonder masses of White people are turned into liberals.

    If you do not think critically about the issue and take for granted that we are all “equal” then it makes sense that institutional White racism is to blame for the discrepancy in the outcomes of Stand Your Ground Trials. It’s a very dangerous and outright EVIL game that the Federal Government and the Mainstream Media have been playing for the past 60 years. When you are awake you can see just how INTENTIONALLY divisive the Federal Government and the Mainstream Media have been and you realize that it is not some magical conspiracy but the result of your being able to properly analyze the situation and connect the dots.

    • Johnny Squire

      It’s the triumph of Marxism. I look forward to the day when the Eric Holder and the Justice Dept go after evolution for violating the Civil Rights Act.

    • me

      Yup. The MSM paints anyone critical of the usurpers that are destroying this country as ‘tinfoil hat’ wearers. It’s part of the Marxist propaganda machine. There is no ‘free press’, there is no ‘representative government’, and there are no rights for European Americans anymore. We have to keep repeating the truth, no matter what the liars call us….

  • capnmorgan5150

    “The paper noted that the discrepancy was due in part to the fact that black shooting victims were more likely to be armed and in the process of committing a crime when shot.”

    Bing! I think the author just figured it out.

    • Spartacus

      He accidentally made sense .

      • 48224

        He accidently told the truth.

    • I think blacks are also more likely to impulsively shoot, and then attempt to use SYG as a defense, even when it isn’t appropriate. We already know what sort of impulse control they possess.

      • Irishgirl

        Hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense.

  • Luca

    Propaganda and BS alert.

    Stand Your Ground is legally impossible in the Zimmerman case. SYG assumes the person being attacked has a choice between fleeing or standing ground and has no duty to flee. Zimmerman had a 160-lb, 6-ft., football player on top of him pummeling him into the sidewalk.. GZ had no option to flee. His only options were to continue getting smashed in the face until unconscious or dead.

    Once again, another glowing example of cherry-picked statistics twisted to achieve the outcome the author is looking for.

    I’m also thinking that the whites getting shot by SYG blacks were probably unarmed and in the process of a car repo, simple trespass or shutting off utilities etc. While on the other hand, blacks were armed, committing a crime or presented a physical equation that eliminated a hand-to-hand defense possibility against a SYG White.

  • Romulus

    Interracial crime between Americas three largest ethnic groups prove whites have to defend themselves from hispanics and blacks. Therefore, the numbers bear that out nothingness. Once again, idiots keep trying to pass off Zimm as white!

    • Sick of it

      Yes, they stated that lie as a matter of fact. Anyone can look at Zim and see he’s mestizo more than anything.

      • Spartacus

        Your own eyes are lying . 2+2=5

  • 48224

    As a white man who legally carries a gun into the city of Detroit, I live in fear that I will one day have to shoot one of the tens of thousands of crack babies wandering the streets looking for a cracka to rob. I will surely get the George Zimmerman treatment. God forbid I have to shoot one of them in self defense.

    • Ed_NY

      I feel the same way. As a person who carries almost everywhere, I surely hope that I never have to shoot a black. I know it will bankrupt me and possibly cost me my freedom. That is a price I am willing to pay to protect my life and the lives of my family.

      • ShermanTMcCoy

        Bury it in the backyard.

    • me

      You could always throw them a basketball or a bucket of fried chicken. That usually stops them, and you’ll be considered a ‘good Whitey’ for fulfilling your role as a Bantu provider.

    • Luca

      Carry a gun and a knife. A knife without your prints on them. A knife is easily defined as a deadly weapon in a court of law.. easier to plead self-defense. I think you get the picture.

    • Strider73

      If you do have to kill in self-defense, don’t wait for the cops to show up. (The thug’s fellow gangsters will get there first anyway.) The rule is “shoot, scoot and stay mute.” If your gun is a semi-automatic, always wear rubber gloves when loading the magazines, to prevent fingerprints on the spent brass. You likely won’t have enough time to police your brass, and even if you do Murphy’s Law says you will miss at least one casing, especially at night. Leave the cops as little to investigate as possible. Besides, in cities like Detroit the cops are nearly as stupid as the crooks.

      • I used to police up spent brass from north Academy Boulevard here in Colorado Springs from the shootings that happened in the first few years I was here. I reloaded it. I haven’t heard gunfire since the winter of 1998-1999. All that behavior just went away during the late winter. I had nothing to do with it, even though I was otherwise unemployed at the time.

  • John R

    Okay, fellow Amren readers, I just could not read this article without
    my blood boiling, so I feel compelled to write. Yes, it is a good thing I am
    WRITING, because if this were a speaking situation, I think I would get too
    angry, and get kicked out of the meeting. As such, I will try and avoid using too much profanity, so as to not upset the moderator.
    Below I have quotes from this article, followed by my comments, which you may
    or may not agree. Feel free to reply:

    findings “show that it’s just harder for black defendants to assert stand-your-ground defense if the victim is white, and easier for whites to raise a stand-your-ground defense if
    the victims are black,”

    “The bottom line is that it’s really easy for juries to accept that whites had to
    defend themselves against persons of color.”

    Could this be because of the actual criminality of blacks? NAH!

    “To some, such findings are a consequence of the pandemic of violence plaguing elements of the black community.”

    Plaguing elements of the black community? Are you fr%^&ing (sorry moderator!) SERIOUS!? How about, elements-actually a large percentage of their male population-have been plaguing our society for years in the form of murder, rape, robbery, welfare costs, incarceration costs, etc. etc. for at least the
    last fifty odd years!?

    “ But to others, they suggest that stand-your-ground laws have allowed perceptions of the black community–sometimes accurate, sometimes not–to become a legal justification for using deadly force.”

    Perceptions? Are you (blank blank) SERIOUS?! (Second time I
    am asking the same question, rolling my eyes.) How about ACCURATE UNDERSTANDING based on the astronomically high rates of violent crimes committed by blacks in every place they inhabit? Better? And that potential crime victims, many of
    them White, had better defend themselves, or end up statistics?

    “Statistics included in the study bore that out, showing that justifiable homicides rose by 8 percent in stand-your-ground states, amounting to some 600 additional killings.”

    How about 600 more ghetto scumbags got what was coming to them, thanks to stand your ground laws? How many more victims would that 600 have harmed, were it not for those “additional killings”?

    “The Zimmerman verdict fit into a long narrative of juries refusing to convict white vigilantes on serious charges–from Bernhard Goetz in 1987 to the police in the first Rodney King trial in 1992–for violence against black men.”

    White vigilantes? How about honest citizens defending themselves, and society, from low life dirt bags?

    “ But a study by John Roman of the Urban Institute suggests that stand-your-ground laws could be amplifying the trend.”

    Am I supposed to be unhappy about this?
    Amplify away!

    “On one hand, young black men are disproportionately involved in
    violent crime.”

    You don’t say? Please, let me sit down; I am just so shocked by
    that, as I suspect most of the readers here are as well. BTW, what’s with “involved
    in violent crime”? How about ARE VIOLENT THUGS!!!! AARRRGGGG (Yes, I am trying,
    dear moderator, not to curse. See, it is good that I am writing, not speaking
    this!)

    “ While blacks represent 12 percent of the US population, they
    make up 55 percent of its homicide victims, the vast majority of those
    perpetrated by other blacks.”

    And how many innocent White people are victimized by these blacks? Like blacks ONLY target their own race (if only that were true) The fact of the matter is, White criminals almost ALWAYS target other Whites. (Why nothing about “White on White” crime?) But blacks cross racial boundaries more than any other group. About half their victims are White, this despite the fact that most blacks live around other blacks.

    The article then gets into the “discrepancy” between SYG defenses where the “victim” was black, versus White. Then, the article goes on to say:

    “ the discrepancy was due in part to the fact that black shooting victims were more
    likely to be armed and in the process of committing a crime when shot.”

    OH REALLY? Think that had SOMETHING to do with the “discrepancy”?

    Well, you get the idea. I have read some really bad B.S. on the issue of race and
    crime, but this article really went high on my BULL#$T METER (sorry moderator)
    so I just had to comment. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to reply,
    whether you agree or disagree.

  • BonusGift

    Even though the USSA’s show trail didn’t have the desired outcome, the media is given the task of attacking Stand Your Ground (“SYG”) laws, so right on cue it does so. Never mind this wasn’t a SYG case or that the victim was exonerated, nope just go right ahead and apply the Cultural Marxist playbook:
    1) Confuse and conflate the facts, and introduce irrelevant issues.
    2) Inject as much biased and one sided emotion as possible.
    3) Accuse whitey of racism for even trying to stay alive (also, see #2).
    4) etc., etcetera …
    I just ask for a day to go by where ignorance and stupidity, as well as blatantly biased anti-white claptrap, isn’t passed off as sound and objective journalism. Clearly that is too much to ask for.

    • me

      Objective journalism is dead. The ‘press’ is owned by a handful of ‘progressive Marxists’ that spew out propaganda and lies with every word they print. Why do you think that Lieberman and his ilk have been trying to shut down the internet? God forbid that the truth gets out! That’s why Mr. Taylor, and other heroes of truth, should be given our deepest thanks and praise.

  • me

    Because the truth will set us free–from the tyranny of the government, the Bantu, the invading ‘immigrants’, and the Marxists.

  • LIBERTYSINCURSION

    These people who subscribe to the theory of the innocent little Trayvon being mowed down by the racist vigilante George Zimmerman, are compulsive liars. The stand your ground law wasn’t even used in Zimmerman’s defense, instead they used the plain old right to self defense. But that doesn’t matter to these people. They simply substitute the reality of this case for what they wish it’s reality was. There is no doubt these people are compulsive liars.

  • ms_anthro

    Just another attempt to disarm us. If they ever get our guns, we are dead. Not just oppressed and disenfranchised in our own countries, as we are now, but literally dead. What is happening to the White South African farmers and the White Rhodesians will be done to us on a much larger scale, because we are so many.

    To that I say, molon labe, you monsters. If they attempt to dismantle SYG, a feature of English Common Law for centuries, we will only start working together extrajudicially and there will be no trials at all, because there will be no suspects. Just a body and more questions than answers. The three S’s will become the rule, not the exception. I wonder sometimes if this isn’t already happening in certain highly “diverse” areas.

  • John R

    No. We White people-at least most on this website-DO understand. It is not “violence, poverty, and ignorance, that are forces of nature, and a deadly epidemic.” It is the presence of a large population of people coming from a race that has never been able to build a civilization, and cannot even seem to control it’s violent impulses when living in a civilization built by others.
    Example? Where I live, just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there is now at the local high school the presence of their own police force! I NEVER REMEMBERED growing up that the local public school needed police stationed there. What had changed? The presence of sizable numbers of blacks that moved into the area in the last few years. I’ll think of that the next time I have to pay my school tax.

    • Would that happen to be the merger of Germantown (formerly German town anyway) and Martin Luther King? I have a NYT story about that in my blogmeister hopper waiting for me to deal with it somehow, and I fed it to AR. The NYT story largely deals with it from the football angle (what else is more important to blacks?), but it did talk about tensions after Germantown was closed and its student body was sent to “hated rival” MLK. It reminds me of a local story more than a decade ago, in East St. Louis, when Lincoln HS was closed and integrated into ESL Senior HS. We were all expecting fireworks, shootings and bing-bangings, except there wasn’t much of it. Mainly because by high school, especially after Freshman year, the bellcurviest blacks have already dropped out.

      • John R

        No. I was talking actually about Upper Darby High School, just outside of Philadelphia. The neighborhood has changed a lot in the last few years. And not for the better.

  • John R

    As a half Peruvian, Zimmermann is actually part American Indian. (Side bar: Throughout the colonial period, Indians made up the vast majority of Peru’s population. An Indian who could speak Spanish, and get some education, could call himself a “mestizo” which improved their social status.) You can kind of tell by the shape of his face and eyes. But of course, the media NEVER EVEN HINTED at that. See, people have too much sympathy for the Noble “Native Americans” so mentioning that would have ruined the whole story for the libs.

  • ShermanTMcCoy

    By “it” I mean the groid, not the gun.

  • Irishgirl

    I’m disappointed in the Christian Science Monitor. Many years ago I used to respect this paper.