Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is facing criticism for explaining to a congressional hearing panel that featured Trayvon Martin's mother that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws benefit African-Americans, a dubious theory invented by right-wing media.
Seeking to rebut statements that Stand Your Ground laws are racially discriminatory during the October 29 hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee, Cruz defended the laws by citing “press reports” that detailed how in Florida African-American defendants were successful 55 percent of the time asserting a Stand Your Ground defense compared to a 53 percent success rate for white defendants:
CRUZ: In Florida the data show that African-American defendants have availed themselves of the Stand Your Ground defense more frequently than have Anglo defendants. According to press reports, 55 percent of African-American defendants have successfully invoked the Stand Your Ground defense in prosecutions compared to a 53 percent rate in the Anglo population. This is not about politicking, this is not about inflaming racial tensions, although some might try to use it to do that, this is about the right of everyone to protect themselves and protect their family.
The press report Cruz referred to is likely a July 16 article from conservative website The Daily Caller that used Florida Stand Your Ground data to assert that “African Americans benefit from Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense law at a rate far out of proportion to their presence in the state's population, despite an assertion by Attorney General Eric Holder that repealing 'Stand Your Ground' would help African Americans,” while reporting the same figures cited by Cruz.
Before being trumpeted by Cruz, The Daily Caller's claims were featured on Fox News. During the July 17 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, host Bret Baier stated, “It appears African-Americans benefit at a disproportionate rate from Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Statistical analyses reveal blacks have made one-third of the claims under that law in Florida and have been successful 55 percent of the time.”
The Daily Caller's analysis of Florida data is flawed because it fails to address the central criticism of Stand Your Ground's racial implications; that the law causes homicides of minorities to be ruled justifiable at a rate far higher compared to homicides of whites, especially when the shooter is of a different race than the victim. Indeed, if The Daily Caller would have examined Stand Your Ground data based on the race of the deceased, it would have found a significant racially disparate impact.
The Daily Caller analysis was based on data collected by The Tampa Bay Tribune on hundreds of Stand Your Ground cases in Florida. As the July 2012 Tribune article that debuted the data noted, in cases where a Stand Your Ground defense was claimed, “people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time.”
A July 17 analysis of more up to date Tribune data by The Atlantic Wire, which unlike The Daily Caller analysis only counted completed cases, found that 78 percent of homicides with an African-American victim were ruled justified compared to 56 percent of homicides with a white victim:
[The Atlantic Wire, accessed 10/30/13]
An examination of Stand Your Ground data from all states where the controversial self-defense law exists reveals similar trends.
In July 2012, PBS asked Urban Institute Justice Policy Center Senior Fellow John Roman to analyze FBI data on homicides between strangers that occurred between 2005 and 2009. Roman found that homicides of African-Americans were more likely to be ruled justified in states with a Stand Your Ground law. According to his research, "[i]n non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent." A July 2013 report by Roman for the Urban Institute that expanded the data set reached a similar conclusion.
A September report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that “the number of homicides of black people that were deemed justifiable in Stand Your Ground states more than doubled between 2005 and 2011 -- rising from 0.5 to 1.2 per 100,000 people -- while it remained unchanged in the rest of the country.”
[Mayors Against Illegal Guns, accessed 10/30/13]