Killings of black men by white people are eight times more likely to be deemed “justifiable” than killings between other race combinations, according to a Marshall Project (MP) study released Monday.
The study examined FBI data on 600,000 homicide cases between 1980 and 2014, investigating the race, gender, and age, as well as the relationship between aggressor and victim. Of the 400,000 cases with sufficient data, MP found that 17 percent of white killings of black males were deemed justified, with the killer facing no charges. The national average between all races is just 2 percent, and black-on-white killings were deemed justifiable just 0.8 percent of the time.
The study clarifies that it is “impossible to say” whether or how much the disparity is due to racial prejudice in the justice system, quoting researcher John Roman, who authored a similar study in 2013. Despite the FBI recording more than 100 data points about killings, it does not record the location of killings, which is essential in determining whether prejudice may have been a factor.
“If, for instance, white-on-black homicides were mainly defensive shootings in a residence or business, and black-on-white shootings mainly occurred during the commission of a street crime, then the racial disparity would be warranted,” Roman wrote.
MP found that 5.5 percent of Hispanic-on-black killings were deemed justified, with 2 percent of black-on-black killings and 3.1 percent of white-on-Hispanic killings falling into the same category. In further comparison, 2 percent of white-on-white killings — which account for the vast majority of white killings — and 2.9 percent of white-on-white-male killings were ruled justified, the study’s authors told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Some, however, argue the disparity is almost certainly due to prejudice, even if only in the form of stereotypes and “implicit bias.” (RELATED: White Offenders Receive Higher Sentences Than Other Races, Study Says)
“Tell me that it doesn’t factor in if the person is black when they’re approaching the suspect,” Mitch Vilos, a Utah defense lawyer and gun rights advocate, told MP. “It contributes to the decision to pull the trigger because of the fear associated with the stereotype. Right or wrong, that’s what’s happening, in my opinion.”
The NAACP did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF in time for publication.
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