Sunday, November 29, 2015

Junk Science on Stand Your Ground in Florida

Andrew Branca, the author of the “Law of Self Defense,” recently reviewed a study on racial bias and Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) laws published in the Elsevier Social Science & Medicine. The study, “Race, law, and health: Examination of ‘Stand Your Ground’ (SYG) and defendant convictions in Florida” (Social Science & Medicine, Volume 142, October 2015, pages 194-201; pay-walled) makes troubling claims about racial bias and convictions.

The study’s authors conclude that a defendant was two times more likely to be convicted in a case that involved a white victim than a non-white victim; that the race of the victim was “a predictor of conviction of the defendant,” and that Florida’s SYG legislation “has a quantifiable racial bias.” The study’s abstract exhorts other states with SYG laws “to carry out similar analyses to see if their manifestations are the same as those in Florida, and all should remediate any injustices found.”

Are these “manifestations” of racial bias a matter of settled science? Does this study really provide evidence of unequal treatment under the law? Pulling back the curtain, Mr. Branca examined the underlying data used – a listing of cases compiled by the Tampa Bay Times, a Florida newspaper, “supplemented with available online court documents and/or news reports.” The study itself was based on a subset of 204 cases out of the newspaper’s entire dataset of 237. After a close analysis of every one of the 237 cases, Mr. Branca found that 181 (over 76 percent) did not qualify as SYG cases at all, based on the legal definition of the term. It follows that even if all of the 56 remaining cases were included in the study’s subset of 204, the vast majority of the subset (148 cases, over 70 percent) were not actually SYG cases. Accordingly, research conclusions drawn from the 204 cases as if they were all SYG cases arguably lack factual integrity and scientific reliability.

More Here

No comments: