No, Blacks Don't 'Benefit' from Florida's Stand Your Ground Law

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It is not the case, as the conservative blog The Daily Caller argues, that Florida blacks "benefit" from the state's "stand your ground" law. The site's article—"Blacks benefit from Florida 'Stand Your Ground' law at disproportionate rate"—masks the reality: That killings by black perpetrators are more likely to be found justified under the law in part because their victims also are black.

The Daily Caller used a Tampa Bay Times database for its analysis, finding:

Black Floridians have made about a third of the state’s total “Stand Your Ground” claims in homicide cases, a rate nearly double the black percentage of Florida’s population. The majority of those claims have been successful, a success rate that exceeds that for Florida whites.

Nonetheless, prominent African Americans including Holder and “Ebony and Ivory” singer Stevie Wonder, who has vowed not to perform in the Sunshine State until the law is revoked, have made “Stand Your Ground” a central part of the Trayvon Martin controversy.

It's clearly not the case that the law, which allows those who fear for their lives to use deadly force in response, is at the center of the Trayvon Martin case due to Holder and Wonder's post hoc comments. But the more egregious error is in the first paragraph.

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It's true that almost a third of the successful claims have been from black killers (and we're only talking about incidents which resulted in a fatality here). Specifically: 31 percent of the cases. (Unlike the Daily Caller, we've excluded pending cases from our data, since they could go either way.) And it's true that the rate at which incidents involving black killers are found to be justified exceeds that of whites. Or, in graph form:

But something interesting happens when you look at the reverse: how often killings are considered justified when you look at the race of the victim.

In this case, there is a very clear dichotomy. For killings involving victims of color—black or Hispani—78 percent of the time the death was considered justified. For killings involving white victims, that rate sinks to 56 percent.

This becomes important when you look at the racial relationship between killer and victim. In raw numbers, here's what the Tampa Bay Times suggests that looks like.

Eighty-two percent of white killers' victims were also white. Seventy-five percent of black killers' victims, also black. Which therefore makes the second graph above significant. If black killers were much more likely to kill black victims, and black victims' deaths were more likely to be considered justified, you get that remarkable datapoint around which the Daily Caller built its article.

Or, in graph form:

There's one specific situation in which blacks "benefited" from the "stand your ground" law, if you will. Killings of whites by blacks were slightly more likely to be found justified than killings of whites by whites. But otherwise, the law has been less than helpful to the state's black community. Nearly four-in-five killings of black people where it has been invoked have resulted in the killer being freed. It's hard to see the benefit in that.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.