Blind Justice: Seeing Race and Gender in Cases of Violent Crime
Politics & Gender, Vol. 3, pp. 321-348, 2007
28 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2008
Racial disparities in the justice system, particularly as they relate to the death penalty, have received increasing scholarly and public-policy scrutiny recently. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the role of the defendant's sex in cases of violent crime, though research has been conducted on how the victim's sex affects court decisions. This article seeks to extend this line of inquiry by asking how women accused of killing their spouses or non-spousal intimate partners are treated by the judicial system. I present a theoretical framework that elucidates the impact of intersectionality and sexual stratification on structuring outcomes for women defendants in cases of violent crimes. To test implications derived from this framework, I utilize an original data set of homicide cases from Oakland County, Michigan, from 1986 to 1988. I find that female defendants were convicted more frequently than were male defendants, and that there is an interactive effect with race. Further, I find that the conviction rate was higher if the victim was an alleged batterer of the defendant. Finally, my data indicate that sentencing decisions have a clear racial aspect to them. I conclude with suggestions for future research.
Keywords: Justice, race, gender, public law, homicide, battering
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