Race and Order

Do blacks get a fair shake from the courts? According to a study by Robert Lerner on behalf of the Center for Equal Opportunity, juries are more likely to acquit blacks than whites of serious crimes. Using data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Lerner examined 55,512 felony cases from America's 75 largest counties from May 1992.

In murder cases, juries acquitted African Americans 22 percent of the time, as opposed to zero percent for whites. For rape, 83 percent of blacks were found not guilty, but only 24 percent of whites were. Only for robberies (12 percent vs. 18 percent) and assaults (37 percent vs. 42 percent) were blacks acquitted less often than whites.

Jury acquittals only comprised 0.6 percent of all cases, but blacks also fared well by other measures. Including guilty pleas, plea bargains, dismissals, etc., blacks were less likely than whites to be convicted for 12 out of 14 types of felonies, the exceptions being felony traffic offenses and miscellaneous "other felonies."

The study doesn't address whether blacks are unfairly arrested and charged more frequently than whites, but it does suggest that when they reach the court system, blacks do not face longer odds than whites.

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