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New “Scientific” Stand-Your-Ground Study Is Ignorant of the Law

New “Scientific” Stand-Your-Ground Study Is Ignorant of the Law

Statistical analysis that “builds upon critical race theory” based on poor data leads to nonsense findings

So this happened: A group of five self-described scientists representing prestigious institutions of higher learning, including the Harvard School of Public Health, Washington University School of Medicine, and the Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice, decided to look for racism in Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” laws (hereafter, “SYG”).

It will come to the surprise of no one , of course, that the team behind “Race, law, and health: Examination of ‘Stand Your Ground’ and defendant convictions in Florida” found what they were looking for. From their abstract (full abstract at bottom of post):

Our results depict a disturbing message: SYG legislation in Florida has a quantifiable racial bias that reveals a leniency in convictions if the victim is non-White, which provides evidence towards unequal treatment under the law.

Surprise, surprise. Well, maybe not so much of a surprise when you read how they describe their methodology for the paper — critical race theory (emphasis added):

We frame our study using Public Health Critical Race Theory (PHCRT) Methodology. PHCRT is a conceptual framework that builds upon critical race theory and public health theories and methods to articulate how best to understand and address social and health issues to achieve social justice for marginalized groups.

Like a child who puts on red-tinted glasses and is shocked to discover the whole world is imbued with that color, these “scientists” donned their racist-tinted lab goggles and found the whole world imbued with racism.

Inconceivable.

That aside, and the legal doctrine of SYG being a subject of some personal interest, I thought I’d take a closer look at how they actually executed their study. Of course, the paper was behind a firewall, but $35.95 later I had 8 pages of “science” in my hands.

It didn’t take long to smell blood in the water, as I quickly noted the source of the “data” they used for the paper: The Tampa Bay Times “database” of “stand-your-ground” cases in Florida.

Before we dive into the “data,” however, it’s worth taking a moment to ensure that we actually know what we’re talking about when we use the phrase SYG. Sadly, this is a step that Drs. Ackermann, Goodman, Gilbert, Arroyo-Johnson, and Pagano apparently neglected to bother with.

“Stand-Your-Ground” & the Legal Defense of Self-Defense

In order to understand SYG, and the limits of its function in the law, one must first understand the law of self-defense itself. If you want the full version of that particular story you might take a gander at “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition.” For our purposes here we’re just going to take a 30,000 foot view.

Self-defense is, of course, a physical act in which an innocent defender uses force to avoid an imminent threat of harm by an attacker. Society recognizes that such a use of defensive force against violent aggression is a social good, and relieves the lawful defender from any criminal liability that might otherwise attach to their use of force against another.

A defender seeks that relief from criminal liability by raising the legal defense of self-defense. Once raised, the criminal justice system then evaluates the facts surrounding your use of force to determine whether you do, in fact, qualify as having acted in self-defense. If so, you have zero criminal liability.

1. The Five Elements of the Law of Self Defense

To qualify as self-defense your use of force must satisfy up to five prongs or elements of self-defense law. These are:

Innocence: You must not have been the aggressor.
Imminence: The threat you perceive must be imminent.
Proportionality: You must use no more force than necessary.
Avoidance: You must retreat if safely possible before using defensive force.
Reasonableness: Your conduct in self-defense must be reasonable.

In fact, however, only a minority of states apply all five of these elements. Just 16 states impose a legal duty to retreat before using force in self-defense. The large majority of 34 states impose no such legal duty, and thus are effectively SYG states.

Even in a SYG jurisdiction, of course, one must still meet the other four elements of self-defense: innocence, imminence, proportionality, and reasonableness. If you violate any one of those, your claim of self-defense will fail, and you will be fully criminally liable for your use of force against another.

In effect, then, the only thing that SYG does is relieve that otherwise existing legal duty to retreat before using force in self-defense.

The fact that SYG is merely a sub-component of a larger legal claim of self-defense has important implications for any analysis of SYG .

2. If Defendant Found Guilty = Not a SYG Case

For one thing, it means that in any case where a defender claims self-defense and is adjudicated guilty, SYG was irrelevant.

Think about it: All SYG does is excuse the element of Avoidance. If a person claims self-defense in a SYG jurisdiction and ends up guilty, it necessarily means his claim of self-defense failed (or he would have been acquitted). If his claim of self-defense failed, it must mean one (or more) of the other four elements of his self-defense claim was disproven (avoidance being off the table in a SYG state). In that case his claim of self-defense would also have failed even in a duty-to-retreat state, because that duty-to-retreat state also requires those other elements of self-defense.

Thus, a conviction means the use of force was legally adjudicated to not be self-defense, and SYG is irrelevant to the case.

3. If Defender In His “Castle” = Not a SYG Case

It is also important to note that even in the minority of states where a legal duty to retreat is imposed there are always at least two exceptions to that duty.

First, there is the “Castle Doctrine” exception: One is relieved of the legal duty to retreat before using defensive force if one is within one’s home (or “castle”).

4. If Retreat Is Not Possible = Not a SYG Case

Second, the legal duty to retreat applies only where a safe avenue of retreat is available to the defender. The defender is never required to increase his jeopardy in attempting to retreat, and as well if there simply exists no means of retreat then it is simply not possible to impose the duty as a practical matter.

These two limitations on the legal duty to retreat have important consequences for any analysis of SYG.

Effectively, it means that where a defender is in one’s home or where the defender has no safe avenue of retreat, then SYG is irrelevant. Whether the defender were in a stand-your-ground jurisdiction or a duty-to-retreat jurisdiction, under either of those circumstances there would be no legal duty to retreat and the defender may “stand his ground.”

5. Excluding Cases That Do Not Qualify as SYG

Knowing these legal realities, we can apply them to various instances of use of force and quickly begin to exclude specific cases as being SYG cases, for the reasons just explained.

A case can only be properly be said to be a SYG case where the presence of SYG results in a different outcome. If the outcome would be the same regardless of whether one was in a “Stand-Your-Ground” or a “Duty-to-Retreat” jurisdiction, then clearly SYG is irrelevant to the outcome.

Any claim of self-defense that results in a conviction is not a SYG case as a matter of law, because the conviction means the claim would have failed regardless of whether one is in a “Stand-Your-Ground” jurisdiction or not.

Any claim of self-defense where there is no identifiable safe avenue of retreat is not a SYG case as a matter of law, because the absence of a safe avenue of retreat would relieve the defender of a duty to retreat even in the absence of SYG

Any claim of self-defense where the defender is in his home is not a SYG case as a matter of law, because the “Castle Doctrine” (found in all US jurisdictions) would relieve the defender of a duty to retreat even in the absence of SYG

The Study Data Set

With that knowledge firmly lodged between our collective ears, let’s take a look a the data set used by Ackermann, et al., (hereafter, “Ackermann”) in “Race, law and health.”

As previously mentioned, they obtained their data from a “database” of purported Florida SYG cases maintained by the Tampa Bay Times.

They begin with 237 of these cases, and then begin to further optimize the data set. Some of these efforts at optimization make reasonable sense. Others, sadly, reflect an utter ignorance of the subject of their study.

First, the raw dataset was last updated in 2013, and had 24 cases that were at that time still pending. Ackermann uses a variety of ways to try to determine the outcome of these, and claims to have done so successfully for all but six of them. These remaining six cases are excluded from the analysis.

Second, Ackermann excludes 10 cases in which there is missing data for the race of the victim. Race of the victim is a key variable when one is on a “racist!” hunt, so this also makes sense.

Third, Ackermann excludes two cases for the reason that they had “multiple outcomes.” I don’t see where he explains this, but in any case it’s only 2 cases and I have bigger fish to fry.

Fourth, and most laughably, Ackerman excludes 15 cases because he was unable to identify the “weapon of the victim.” This is laughable because whether a self-defense case involved a weapon is utterly irrelevant to determining whether it was a SYG. As discussed, Stand-Your-Ground applies solely to the element of avoidance in a claim of self-defense. But whatever—“science.”

In any case, Ackermann concludes with a data set of 204 cases drawn from the original set of 237 in the Tampa Bay Times “database.”

Ackermann then applies to these 204 cases a bivariate statistical analysis using SAS 9.4 statistical software, using a statistical significance threshold of p < 0.05.

Sounds fancy, right? That’s some real science going on right there, ayup.

Naturally, Ackermann successfully discovered “racism!” in his dataset of 204 cases.

Does his methodology pass even the most superficial of smell tests? I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, that it does not.

Study Data: A Big Plate of Oops

As noted, Ackermann’s analysis is based upon his selection of 204 purported SYG cases drawn from the 237 in the Tampa Bay Times SYG “database.”

A quick glance at those 237 cases, however, strongly suggested that it did not contain 204 actual SYG cases, or anything close to that number.

A closer examination confirmed that initial impression, and made clear that Ackermann’s data set was utterly worthless for its claimed purpose, and that his findings resulting from his analysis of that worthless data could have a value no greater.

How do we arrive at this conclusion? By simply applying the actual characteristics of a SYG case to those contained in the Tampa Bay Times database.

To put it another way, we applied the exclusion criteria already discussed above: any case that resulted in a conviction, that lacked an identifiable safe avenue of retreat, or that took place on the defender’s property simply does not qualify as a SYG case as a matter of law, because SYG is irrelevant in those circumstances.

It naturally follows that only those cases that are not so excluded could possibly be SYG cases suitable for any study purporting to examine “Stand-Your-Ground.”

And nothing like 204 cases remain after the non-SYG cases are excluded.

1. Adjudicated Guilty: Not Stand-Your-Ground

Ackermann himself chose to lump together cases in which the defendant was adjudicated guilty or pleaded to a criminal offense, and we’ll follow his methodology in that regard.

Of the 237 cases in the Tampa Bay Times “database,” fully 38 resulted in guilty verdicts and another 32 resulted in pleas of guilty. Collectively then, no fewer than 70 of the 237 cases are excluded as SYG cases on this basis as a matter of law.

That would leave only 167 potential SYG cases in the data.

Yet Ackermann used 204 of these cases for his analysis. Oops.

2. Defender in his “Castle”: Not Stand-Your-Ground

The Tampa Bay Times “database” also helpfully characterized each case on the issue of whether the defender was on his own property. As discussed above, a defender in his “castle” has no legal duty to retreat before acting in self-defense regardless of whether he is in a SYG or a duty-to-retreat jurisdiction. SYG is simply irrelevant in such cases.

Taking a look at the 237 cases in the Tampa Bay Times “database,” fully 71 are flagged as involving a defender on his or her own property.

This would leave only 166 potential SYG cases in the data.

Yet Ackermann used 204 of these cases for his analysis. Oops.

3. No Safe Avenue of Retreat: Not Stand-Your-Ground

The Tampa Bay Times “database” also helpfully characterized each case on the issue of the availability of retreat, assigning one of three conditions. They indicated whether the defender could have safely retreat with a value of “Yes,” “No,” or “Unclear/Disputed.”

Because a duty-to-retreat can exist only where there is a safe avenue of retreat available to the defender, any value other than “Yes” means that the case cannot be categorized as a SYG case. If there is no safe avenue of retreat there is no duty to retreat whether one is in a SYG state or not: SYG is irrelevant.

Taking a look at the 237 cases in the Tampa Bay Times “database,” fully 36 were coded to indicate explicitly that the defender did not have the option to retreat. These are not SYG cases as a matter of law.

An additional 64 cases were coded as “uncertain/disputed.” If it is not known whether a case involved a potentially safe avenue of retreat it can simply not be known whether it would fail as a SYG case on that basis, and therefore it is not suitable for inclusion in an analysis of SYG.

This means that fully 100 cases among the 237 are necessarily excluded on the basis that there was no safe avenue of retreat, and that they were therefore not SYG cases.

That would leave only 137 potential SYG cases in the data.

Yet Ackermann used 204 of these cases for his analysis. Oops.

All Exclusions Combined – Study Based on only 56 actual SYG Cases

Naturally, many of the cases failed as SYG cases on more than one of the exclusionary criteria applied here. When we account for this to identify the number of the 237 cases that are excluded as SYG cases on at least one of these criteria, we arrive at the 181.

That’s right: 181 of the 237 purported SYG cases in the Tampa Bay Times SYG database are simply not SYG cases as a matter of law.

That leaves a mere 56 of the 237 cases that could potentially be SYG cases.

Fifty-six.

Yet Ackermann used 204 of these cases for his SYG analysis.

That means that fully 76% of the data to which Ackermann applied his bivariate statistical analysis using SAS 9.4 statistical software and a statistical significance threshold of p < 0.05 are by definition utterly inappropriate for the intended purpose of studying to societal implications of SYG.

As my statistics professor at Harvard used to tell us: “Garbage in. Garbage out.”

Oops.

——-

Here is the full “abstract” of the study — the full study does not yet appear in the public domain, though I have read the whole thing in preparation for this post:

Previous analyses of Stand Your Ground (SYG) cases have been primarily descriptive. We examine the relationship between race of the victim and conviction of the defendant in SYG cases in Florida from 2005 to 2013. Using a regression analytic approach, we allow for simultaneous examination of multiple factors to better understand existing interrelationships. Data was obtained from the Tampa Bay Times SYG database (237 cases) which was supplemented with available online court documents and/or news reports. After excluding cases which were, still pending as of January 2015; had multiple outcomes (because of multiple suspects); and missing information on race of victim and weapon of victim, our final analytic sample has 204 cases. We chose whether the case resulted in a conviction as the outcome. We develop logistic regression models using significant bivariate predictors as candidates. These include race of the victim (White, non-White), whether the defendant could have retreated from the situation, whether the defendant pursued the victim, if the victim was unarmed, and who was the initiator of the confrontation. We find race of the victim to be a significant predictor of case outcome in this data set. After controlling for other variables, the defendant is two times (OR = 2.1, 95% CI [1.07, 4.10]) more likely to be convicted in a case that involves White victims compared to those involving non-White victims. Our results depict a disturbing message: SYG legislation in Florida has a quantifiable racial bias that reveals a leniency in convictions if the victim is non-White, which provides evidence towards unequal treatment under the law. Rather than attempting to hide the outcomes of these laws, as was done in Florida, other states with SYG laws should carry out similar analyses to see if their manifestations are the same as those in Florida, and all should remediate any injustices found.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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Comments

Garbage In, Garbage Out.

    (Also mistaking Preview for Submit button. Sigh.)

    “… Data was obtained from the Tampa Bay Times SYG database (237 cases) which was supplemented with available online court documents and/or news reports…”

    Without a second source to compare against, the TBT database might as well be picked at random before you even apply statistics to it. The probability of selection bias is approaching 1.0, and there will be cases which could not even make a grand jury being excluded from the total. These are ‘cases’ not ‘events’ and I’m presuming there will be quite a few events so obviously SD/SYG that even a biased prosecutor will not turn them into cases.

Statistical analysis that “builds upon critical race theory” based on poor data leads to nonsense findings

I haven’t even read the post yet. Just commenting on the headline. Anything that builds on “critical race theory” is bound to lead to nonsense findings, even with perfect data, just like anything that builds on astrological theory, or homœopathic or phrenological theory.

Whenever you see “critical” as a modifier, you know that bullshit follows.

It’s all Frankfurt School BS, and has NOTHING to do with reality.

My Critical Race Theory explains the fact that to achieve social justice for marginalized groups the individuals of those groups must not break the law and if they do they must stand down when a LEO tells them to.

Breaking the law is self-marginalizing. Not standing down when you are caught is self-marginalizing.

Promoting a self-marginalizing racial excuse with phony baloney scientism thrown at the SYG law is much less than critical thinking. Such harmful nonsense sets up the black community with a scapegoat theory and “space to destroy”.

“Our results depict a disturbing message: SYG legislation in Florida has a quantifiable racial bias that reveals a leniency in convictions if the victim is non-White, which provides evidence towards unequal treatment under the law.”

BUT…funny thing…my understanding of Florida experience is that SYG defendants are ALSO racially biased toward “non-Whites”.

Bet they didn’t bother with that lil’ detail…

    rabidfox in reply to Ragspierre. | October 19, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Agree, the beneficiaries of the SYG law are the black communities.

      It should really bother them that so many of the people assaulted are black people. A huge crime wave against black people. But because it’s by other black people, we’re supposed to not care, because while black lives matter, black criminal lives matter more, and black law-abiding citizen lives matter not very much.

Henry Hawkins | October 19, 2015 at 8:07 pm

But dude! There were five scientists! And they all agreed! That’s a consensus! A scientific consensus! A younanimouse one!

Methinks, like with AGW, they wanted to provide the seeming cover of scientific expertise to fool people into accepting their findings.

They used one racist theory, built on a previous racist theory to confirm their racist theory. Does that sound about right?

“critical race theory” = lies.

Thanks for the refresher on self-defense and SYG!

Outstanding post, Branca!

Once again the left corrupts science by twisting it to claim that an outcome supporting their agenda is validated by science. Critics of their work are then attacked as “denying science”.

Anyone who uses “critical race theory” to explain anything can’t be expected to know the difference between good data and cherry picked garbage. They may actually believe their analysis is rigorous, valid and important. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who read beyond the title will also think that.

I think you could also take issue about the remaining SYG cases used in the “study.” If the Tampa Bay Times was the source, then the criteria for the SYG cases included are questionable.

I looked at the George Zimmerman case (with which I am very familiar thanks, in part, to Andrew and Legal Insurrection) to compare the descriptions with what we know to be facts. The description of the actual confrontation reads:

“Zimmerman’s father said his son said Martin then threatened him, punched him in the nose and knocked him to the concrete. Zimmerman pulled a gun from a holster on his waist and shot Martin.”

Reading this, it sounds like Martin punched Zimmerman once, knocking him to the ground, and Zimmerman responded by pulling out his gun and shooting Martin. But we know there was much more to the attack. Martin not only punched Zimmerman, but also pinned him to the ground “MMA-style” and beat Zimmerman about the head. With each punch, Martin was also causing Zimmerman to repeatedly hit the back of his head on the concrete.

This case may have been one Mr. Branca excluded because there was no avenue of retreat. But if this description of a very high profile case is so inaccurate and biased, how many others are?

You can’t really have any semblance of a credible study if your sources are not credible.

    You’re quite right, the Tampa Bay Times “database” has the Zimmerman/Trayvon case incorrectly coded as one in which both retreat was possible and Zimmerman “pursued” Trayvon.

    Neither, of course, is true.

    I have no doubt many of the other cases are also incorrectly coded.

    But there’s only so much effort I’m willing to put into debunking junk science. I felt, in this case, I’d already done enough.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

These scientists want to be loved by the liberal class. And they will be. Anyone who refutes their finding in a scientific journal will be vilified. Therefore, no opposition will be forthcoming, and their conclusion will be validated. Such is science these days. Would be nice to see several defense experts, such as Mr. Branca, offer to debate these people on this issue. Only in that forum would they be seen for what they are.

Andrew, the last two paragraphs of “3. If Defender in his castle…” should be moved to the end of “4. If retreat is not possible.” They reference “These two limitations,” but the second hadn’t been mentioned yet.

I have a basic question. If you start a fight with someone and don’t use deadly force and your opponent draws a knife to attack you are you allowed to use deadly force in self defense? In this example you aren’t innocent, you committed assault, but you didn’t use deadly force.

    Miles in reply to ConradCA. | October 20, 2015 at 1:19 am

    Where I wonder about this is, whether it’s an advanced elderly person say in their 90s, or a disabled person with a medical condition that could easily be aggravated with possibly mortal results, could deadly force be used to defend themselves from “simple” physical assault.

    amatuerwrangler in reply to ConradCA. | October 20, 2015 at 4:08 am

    If the unarmed fight is so lopsided that you are going to put the other person in reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury, you give them legal standing to resist with a weapon, the knife. If the fight is even or if blows are not yet thrown, the drawing of the knife turns the other into the aggressor due to the escalation to deadly force level; you may now defend. You might still fail in a self-defense case as you failed the “avoidance” criteria. Its fluid and complicated.

    Fear of great bodily injury and/or death are the threshold for deadly force; disparity in size and skill of combatants, as well as numbers, are reason to fear these results. Age difference could also be a factor. A weapon in the hand of the other party is not a legal necessity.

    I see the Amazon thingy at the top of the site has Andrew’s book up for less than $10, if you don’t have it, now is the time… Some of us paid more. Worth it at twice the cost.

    DaveGinOly in reply to ConradCA. | October 20, 2015 at 4:24 am

    If I were sitting on a jury, it wouldn’t help you.

    I’ve seen too many one-punch knock-outs on YouTube and consider any assault (even with empty hands) potentially lethal. Once a victim is unconscious, he may as well be dead, because the attacker can surely kill him at his leisure. Therefore, as a juror, I may consider valid the use of lethal force in response to just about any credible threat.

    In the scenario you present, the defender is responding to a potentially lethal attack (he doesn’t know your skill level, he doesn’t know if you will produce a weapon, and he knows you may get lucky and KO him – after which you may kill him), so you’d be toast for responding to his knife with lethal force. In my book, once you start a fight, you own it, no matter where it goes.

    As an aside, I’m currently reading One Day in September, about the 1972 Munich Olympiad terror attack. The one surviving terrorist, commenting about the first Israeli killed in the Olympic village, said it was “self-defense” because the Israeli was trying to grab a weapon from one of the terrorists.

    It depends on the jurisdiction.

    Some states allow the aggressor in a NON-DEADLY fight to “recover their innocence” if the other party responds to the non-deadly attack with deadly force. So, shove somebody and they come back at you with a knife, for example. In effect you’ve started a non-deadly force fight, you’ve “consented” to their use of non-deadly defensive force (they’re simply acting in lawful self-defense). But if they respond with DEADLY force to your non-deadly force aggression they’ve started a SECOND fight, a DEADLY force fight, in which THEY are the deadly force aggressor, and you can claim self-defense for your use of defensive force against that deadly force threat. (You’re still on the hook, of course, for the first non-deadly force fight that you started.)

    But not all states accept that recovery of innocence. In those that do no, once you start the fight you own it, regardless of the other party’s response, unless you withdraw from the fight in good faith and effectively communicate that withdrawal to the other party.

    Also worth noting that some states have different rules for “recovering innocence” depending on whether one was the aggressor on one hand or the provoker on the other hand, but that’s a topic for another day. 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    Char Char Binks in reply to ConradCA. | October 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Don’t start fights.

It seems many people think SYG makes an otherwise unlawful killing lawful. For instance, supporters of Trayvon Martin protest against FL’s SYG law, believing it permitted Zimmerman to kill Martin, as if in the absence of SYG Zimmerman’s use of lethal force would have been unlawful. They don’t understand that by (mistakenly) acknowledging that SYG was a factor they’re actually admitting the shooting was lawful and that Trayvon got all the justice he deserved.

    Milhouse in reply to DaveGinOly. | October 20, 2015 at 10:05 am

    It seems many people think SYG makes an otherwise unlawful killing lawful.

    Well, it does. In duty-to-retreat states, killing an attacker when you could have run away instead is unlawful; in SYG states it’s lawful. You can’t get much plainer than that.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Milhouse. | October 21, 2015 at 2:11 am

      Me: “It seems many people think SYG makes an otherwise unlawful killing lawful.”

      Milhouse: “Well, it does. In duty-to-retreat states, killing an attacker when you could have run away instead is unlawful; in SYG states it’s lawful. You can’t get much plainer than that.”

      First, please re-read my statement carefully. Because I am talking about the effect of SYG laws, the statement can only apply to those States that have such laws. The fact that some States do not have them does not effect the lawfulness or unlawfulness of lethal force uses within those States that do have them. SYG cannot make an unlawful killing lawful in a State that does not have SYG.

      Second, the use of the term “otherwise unlawful” means the situation that I’m positing is an unlawful use of force without consideration of the possibility of retreat. If some other element (other than failure to retreat) of an incident makes a use of lethal force unlawful, then it was unlawful, and remains so, regardless of the existence or absence of SYG in the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred. SYG cannot make an unlawful killing lawful.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Milhouse. | October 21, 2015 at 2:18 am

      As Andrew says below:
      “…if we’re looking at actual SYG cases, the number of people convicted will always be zero, regardless of race–if the defendant was convicted then he simply wasn’t acting in lawful self-defense, either with or without SYG, and SYG is irrelevant.”

NEWS HEADLINE FLASH!

A group of five self-described scientists representing prestigious institutions took a poll and they all agree that “Stand Your Ground” gun laws are racist! That’s 100%!

WOW that is much better than the 97% of scientist that believe in made made global warming so it must be TRUE!

You can hear Obama and all his parrots… 100% of scientists say “Stand Your Ground” laws are racist!

The real crux of the SYG hullabaloo is not the concept of SYG but the GUN that is used. If Zimmerman had stuck a Bowie Knife in Trayvon’s ribs there never would have been a news story to pervert.

    Milhouse in reply to wukong. | October 20, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Not true. What would>/i> have made it a non-story, however, is if his name had been Jorge Mesa.

    Milhouse in reply to wukong. | October 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Oops. Try again:

    Not true. What would have made it a non-story, however, is if his parents’ sexes had been reversed, and thus his name had been Jorge Mesa.

OK I will bite

What is the result of a recalculation of the “study” using only the 56 cases?

    With n = 56, and those cases spread over several years, and likely miscoded as well, why bother doing the analysis?

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      I majored in economics and am familiar with the method (logistic regression) the authors used. The answer is that the narrowed data set refutes their published conclusion.

      “Our results depict a disturbing message: SYG legislation in Florida has a quantifiable racial bias that reveals a leniency in convictions if the victim is non-White, which provides evidence towards unequal treatment under the law.”

      and

      “the defendant is two times more likely to be convicted in a case that involves White victims compared to those involving non-White victims.”

      If none of the SYG cases have convictions, then the probability of conviction is zero regardless of the race of the victim. This directly contradicts the authors claim that cases involving white victims are more likely to result in conviction. If you run their same regression model on the 56 cases, you will get the opposite result of the authors (unable to reject the null hypothesis @ 5%).

      Andrew, it would be worth a try to submit a rebuttal paper. Such a paper would probably use their same regression on the 56 true SYG cases. I believe a better (than the authors) experimental design would be to look at all of the non-convictions on grounds of self defense and then identify cases where the a duty to retreat might have caused a conviction.

        See my comment below, which briefly describes what I see as a major methodological barrier to your suggested hypothesis (which I agree is the correct question to ask).

        –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    And there’s a further problem even more serious than the low “n” remaining:

    What the heck is the study’s question?

    In current form the paper states that “the defendant is two times more likely to be convicted in a case that involves White victims compared to those involving non-White victims.”

    But if we’re looking at actual SYG cases, the number of people convicted will always be zero, regardless of race–if the defendant was convicted then he simply wasn’t acting in lawful self-defense, either with or without SYG, and SYG is irrelevant.

    So asking about difference in conviction rates as a function of race in the context of SYG is simply a nonsensical question.

    The only meaningful question would be to look at whether a conviction would have been more likely if the avoidance element were added back into the SD equation–but whether safe retreat might have been possible in a particular case is a highly contextualized and subjective judgment based on the totality of the circumstances, and is rarely black-and-white (heh).

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      That is exactly right. The authors’ experimental design cannot give any meaningful result once you realize that the convictions are not SYG cases. A rebuttal paper would demonstrate that analysis of SYG cannot use conviction rates.

      However, we can examine who benefits the from SYG. Would minority defendants be more likely than Whites to face stricter scrutiny of their SD actions without SYG?

      The better experimental design would not look at conviction rates. Instead, out of all of the non-convictions in Florida on grounds of self defense and where the defendant could have retreated, what are the races of the defendants and victims? Are minority defendants more likely than white defendants to not retreat when retreat is possible? Whichever group that does not retreat benefits from SYG because they don’t have to face the additional legal scrutiny. Also, they chose to not retreat during the attack. Therefore, they would probably have been worse off during the attack if they were forced to retreat.

        aGrimm in reply to nebel. | October 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

        Nebel: it is so much fun seeing you and Andrew destroy the so-called science employed in the study. Thanks! A major peeve of mine is the misuse of science in support of a cause. Far too many attempt to gain an intellectual and moral high ground in this fashion, but it is deceit of the worst order. They prey upon a lack of scientific knowledge. At the same time, they set science up as a god. It is not.

      The analysis would examine the probability of choosing not to retreat based on race. Whoever, retreats less frequently benefits more from SYG.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Andrew Branca. | October 21, 2015 at 2:43 am

      “…but whether safe retreat might have been possible in a particular case is a highly contextualized and subjective judgment based on the totality of the circumstances…”

      This is why SYG laws are morally correct. Imposing and enforcing a “duty to retreat” invites prosecution of victims for making wrong judgments in life or death situations for which they are generally untrained and with which they are unprepared to deal. The instant of hesitation that such consideration may cause in the mind of the defender could have fatal consequences. If the victim survives, the prosecution makes a victim of him again, this time for not exercising courtroom-level acumen while under the stress of a violent attack. “Duty to retreat” also makes the victim of a crime responsible for the outcome of an incident. If are two criminals involved in a crime, and one of the criminals is killed during its execution, isn’t the surviving criminal held responsible for the death of his compatriot? Criminals in such situations are responsible for the outcome of crimes they’re committing, but is it right to treat one of their victims as if he were a co-conspirator or accessory to the crime by making him responsible for its outcome? Is it fair to make a victim responsible for the outcome of a situation he did not seek out, did not plan, was unprepared for, that was imposed upon him by others, and that placed him in mortal danger? This is why “duty to retreat” is immoral.

No, I think that the real crux of the anti-SYG people is self defense itself. Many people believe that if a big person attacks a little person, the little person should not lift a finger to defend himself, he should just take the beat-down. Little people are expected to be turn-the-other-cheek pacifists.
Because the topic of this thread is a study alleging racism, I will say this:
Many of the cases in the news fit this pattern: A large African-American man physically attacks a smaller white man, the white man fights back, and the social justice warriors cry “racism!”

As usual Andrew, a great article. You did an excellent job of breaking down the flaws in the study whereby the non-scientific person can understand the problem.

Advocacy science is rampant and almost always false. One can find it on both sides of the political spectrum, but I have found that science’s misuse is mostly on the left and in the social sciences. I recently had a good time with a liberal family member by demolishing the following “study” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4486046/

The authors are advocating (there it is) that pediatricians “counsel” parents with guns and children on gun safety. Maybe not a bad idea, though an incredibly inefficient way to improve gun safety. Think 31,000 pediatricians spending 20-30 minutes each in the hope of preventing 79 (2013 stat) accidental firearm deaths of children (ages 0-14) while invading (and recording) the privacy of their patients’ parents. I analyzed the study. The authors detail all the correct scientific steps they took, so the study looks very scientific – until one looks at the disparity between intervention/control groups, the wrong method of statistical analysis, and the misuse of their derived number in the discussion. Pure garbage. It is a seriously flawed study, but it is on the NIH website and being cited by others. The study was cited within a perspective (anti-gun) published in a prestigious journal. To add insult to injury, this perspective author published a very deceptive graph. It is a travesty against science to see studies being built on advocacy science from flawed studies.

There are two questions to ask when a flawed study is found: 1) are the “scientist” authors incompetent; or 2) if not incompetent, then what else is going on? The answers to # 2 can range from a simple mistake to fraud. When it comes to gun control “studies” the answer is usually confirmation bias, which is a fancy term for deceit.

And don’t get me started on reasonably well done climate studies that suddenly make the magical leap to “global warming” in the conclusions.

This post should go to every lawyer in FL. My only quibble (a long standing one) is giving these people (“social scientist”) any credence whatsoever is wrong. Science is repeatable and testable. Anything having “social” in it is not science.

democrats are the party of criminals. Remember they supported the KKK, the Sullivan Act of N.Y. was to protect Sullivan’s goons from getting show while strong arming immigrants, they want to get their base allowed to vote from their prison cells and on and on.

Thanks Andrew, especially for this one. Reading that 8 pages of bunk, counts as “taking one for the team” in my book.

Sammy Finkelman | October 21, 2015 at 11:08 am

The biggest thing wrong with this study, of course, is the assumption that being in the wrong, or doing criminal acts, is evenly distributed among population groups.

This is simply not the case, although the size of the disparity, and even where the incidence is higher or lower, does not stay the same from generation to generation.

It can sometimes change markedly within a space of 20 to 30 years, although at other times it may be roughly stable for a long time.

The fact that doing criminal acts is NOT evenly distributed among population groups is no contradiction to the notion of free will or individual responsibility, nor is it real support for the notion that the propensity to commit criminal acts is inherited (even when it is inherited to some degree, such as the fact that males are more likely than females to assault people, this is not the most important factor in whether or not somebody does that)

What it is, is an illustration of power of differential association -who somebody’s friends and acquanitancea are and the mileau in which somebody lives.

This is different for different people, and also statistically different between different groups of people.

There can be disparity, also, in law enforcement, in that places a person can get away with a lot more for longer than in other places, and this is the most important factor.

That being said, there may be a few more errors of judgement being made against someone when a person belongs to the “wrong” population group. This is almost unavoidable and cannot be corrected by seeking a nonexistant equality of probability of being determined to be in the wrong – in fact doing so only increases the real disparity.

Andrew – You should seriously consider writing up these thoughts and submitting them to Social Science and Medicine as a comment on the article. I would be interested in the editor’s response.

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