Race and the Construction of Evidence in Homicide Cases

Am J Crim Just (July 2014) 39:771–786

17 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2015

See all articles by Glenn Pierce

Glenn Pierce

Northeastern University - School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Michael Radelet

University of Colorado at Boulder - Institute of Behavioral Sciences

Chad Posick

Georgia Southern University

Tim Lyman

Northeastern University, Institute for Security and Public Policy at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Date Written: December 11, 2015

Abstract

Research that attempts to document racial or gender disparities in the criminal justice system inevitably paints a distorted picture if only one point in the criminal justice process is examined. For example, studies that look at who is sentenced to death among a group convicted of first-degree murder will miss exposure of biases that occur at earlier stages of the criminal justice process. In this paper, we looked at prosecutorial files on over 400 homicide cases from Caddo Parish, Louisiana (the Shreveport area). Results indicate that even after controlling for aggravating factors, cases with White female victims result in thicker files than other homicides, indicating more prosecutorial effort in attempting to secure convictions in such cases. This, in turn, was related to more severe sentencing of offenders convicted of killing whites and women. On the other hand, cases with black victims resulted in the thinnest case files and the least severe sentences.

Keywords: Capital punishment, Discretion, Homicide investigations, Racial bias

JEL Classification: C12, J71, K14

Suggested Citation

Pierce, Glenn and Radelet, Michael and Posick, Chad and Lyman, Tim, Race and the Construction of Evidence in Homicide Cases (December 11, 2015). Am J Crim Just (July 2014) 39:771–786. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2702381

Glenn Pierce (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Criminology and Criminal Justice ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

Michael Radelet

University of Colorado at Boulder - Institute of Behavioral Sciences ( email )

Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Chad Posick

Georgia Southern University

P.O. Box 8151
Statesboro, GA 30460-8151
United States

Tim Lyman

Northeastern University, Institute for Security and Public Policy at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice ( email )

204 Churchill Hall
360 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02115
United States
(504) 895-7951 (Phone)

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