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Stand-Your-Ground Study Authors Concede They Didn’t Study Stand-Your-Ground

Stand-Your-Ground Study Authors Concede They Didn’t Study Stand-Your-Ground

“These are cases related to SYG, not SYG cases…we clearly state this in the methods section”

I know I promised that my prior post would be my last on the thoroughly debunked “scientific” paper, “Race,law, and health: Examination of ‘Stand Your Ground’ and defendant convictions in Florida.”

The debunking took place in these posts:

But then, well, THIS happened:

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Yep, I found two of the paper’s authors in my Twitter timeline:  Melody S. Goodman and Cassandra Arroyo-Johnson, both of the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery [!], Washington University School of Medicine.

Paper title

“Self,” I thought to myself, “this would be a great chance to communicate with the authors diectly, and make sure I’ve not merely misunderstood their methodology which I’ve been tearing to shreds these last several days.”

Rather than narrate the communications that followed, I’ll let the tweets between us speak for themselves, along with a few images of their paper to provide context.

Can you share

Of course, then I got hit with the “internet troll” label–always the best way to defend the quality of one’s “science”:

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I guess Ms. Arroyo-Johnson senses the water’s getting deep, so she tries to shuffle me off onto the poor journal that got taken in by her paper:

Dissenting commentary

At this point Ms. Goodman steps in to throw her flailing colleague a lifeline.  Unfortunately, they apparently don’t know the definition of lifeline, either. Pro-tip: It’s not spelled “anchor.”

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I have to confess, I LOL’d at that one, as the kids say these days.

Oddly, for a paper that is not actually studying SYG cases, but merely “cases related to SYG,” there’s a great deal written about the former and very little about the latter.  In the abstract, for example, the word “related” doesn’t appear even once:

Abstract highlighted

Of course, that’s just the abstract.  One can’t shove every word into the abstract, or you’d have the whole paper. Surely the phrase “related to SYG,” or words to that effect, must appear densely throughout a paper the authors claim was targeted at precisely that.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to do a word search of a PDF document.

Unfortunately, in a paper spanning 8 pages the words “related” and “Stand Your Ground” appear in proximity only once, in the Methods section where the authors describe their data set:

Methods related to SYG

Everywhere else in the paper, including every conclusion and finding resulting from the authors’ analysis, specifically refers simply to SYG, and not laws or cases related to SYG.

Indeed, their key finding specifically cites “the SYG law in Florida,” rather than, say, “SYG-related laws in Florida”:

Key finding

Clearly, then, the authors studied something that looked like SYG (to their uninformed eye, at least), and from that drew conclusions about something that actually is SYG.

Am I the only person reminded of the parable of the blind men feeling the elephant?

In reality, of course, it’s much worse than that.  In my previous posts here, here, and here I’ve already shown how very few of the cases in the Tampa Bay Times bore any resemblance to any useful definition of Stand-Your-Ground, of either the correct “no-duty-to-retreat” or the incorrect “self-defense immunity” variety.

Really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  After all, it’s not like the cases in the Tampa Bay Times were selected and validated by someone expert in Stand-Your-Ground law (mirror, mirror). Rather they were collected by the staff of a regional Florida newspaper.  When even many lawyers and judges and (gasp!) post-graduate students can’t seem to understand what Stand-Your-Ground is and is not, it hardly seems reasonable to expect greater discernment from a local journalist.  So that’s not surprising.

What is surprising is that the authors of this paper–who hold positions at Schools of Medicine and Schools of Public Health (and, it must be noted, a School of Social Justice)–did not themselves make any apparent effort to validate the data set on which they were basing their paper.

If they had, they would have discovered that fewer than half the cases in that dataset could possibly constitute Stand-Your-Ground in any form applied in court, those being the only forms that could affect conviction rates (the paper’s key finding).

(I suppose an alternative explanation would be that they did seek to validate the data, but were simply not smart enough to figure it out.  That, however, seems an uncharitable perspective.)

Instead, they chose to use the definition of the term central to their paper’s research subject and key findings–Stand-Your-Ground–as defined by a local journalist with no apparent expertise in either science or the law.  That’s science!

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Am I the only person that’s reminded of the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out”?

OK, that’s all the time I have for the “faux science” crowd today!

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

[Featured image is a screen capture from the 1974 Mel Brooks movie, “Young Frankenstein,” which remains remarkably watchable even today.]

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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There was a time…within my memory…when a PhD. had to do something that actually advanced the art or science of their focus.

Not retard. ADVANCE.

Those days are gone forever, apparently.

are you going to also write editorial about it to be published in the mentioned journal?

    I don’t know, I’ve already spent a lot of time on this, and I expect Legal Insurrection gets a lot more eyeballs than does the “Social Science & Medicine” journal. It would feel like a step down, really.

    Plus my students in the Law of Self Defense Instructors Program are understandably growing impatient for the Module #3: “How to read and understand a court opinion like a lawyer.’ 🙂 (It’s ALMOST done, folks!)

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      rorschach256 in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2015 at 11:03 am

      I appreciate the demands on your time, but this kind of intellectual dishonesty cannot be ignored, it needs to be seen by the same audience that saw the original waste of paper. Sure Legal Insurrection gets more eyeballs, but they aren’t the SAME eyeballs. That is important. These people need to be made laughingstocks in front of their peers.

      Ragspierre in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

      You could cut and paste a lot of it from your pieces here, Andrew.

      Anything you wrote would be superior to the “study” authors. Which isn’t much of a compliment, but it has the virtue of being facially true!

      I’m actually appalled at the stupidity of these “scientists”…and I wasn’t expecting a whole lot.

      Perhaps you could do a simple paragraph stating that a public analysis/debunking has already been released, with whatever minimal information you felt was helpful, and then copy and paste your columns, or the links to them. It seems to me that the columns speak for themselves, even if they may not fit some “expected” format for a “journal”.

      TX-rifraph in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Andrew, writing an editorial for this journal may be a waste of your valuable time. My guess is that the readers of this journal care no more about accuracy, quality, knowledge, or truth than do the editors, publisher, or authors. The LI crowd appreciates what you do but the SJW crowd would just dismiss your arguments and work as the “study” authors already have.

      it may be a waste of time but it may also get seen and provoke thinking on it where lease expected.
      may also call into view their review process where they use a journalist offhand classification of a legal concept as an actual one.

        Sharpshooter in reply to dmacleo. | November 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm

        Those people are beyond thinking. They live in a different reality than we do, theirs made up out of whole cloth and changing moment to moment based on their whims and wishes.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I have to say I really wish you would submit the piece just so see if the “journal” would actually print it.

We stand by our methods.

So typically “progressive”.
This is what they call science nowadays. Affirmative action is indeed working wonders!

You are doing the Lord’s work, Branca. May truth and facts prevail over “scientific” “studies” that really aren’t.

And such arrogance, publishing a study on a topic they totally ignore, then “stand by their methods”.
What’s happening to America?
If I was in a supervisory position over these people they’d be fired.

Their methods are those of Josef Goebbels, make the lie big, tell it often, lather rinse repeat.

Humphrey's Executor | November 6, 2015 at 11:04 am

(From young Frankenstein):

[after failing to bring the creature to life]

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Nothing.

Inga: Oh, Doctor, I’m sorry.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No. No. Be of good cheer. If science teaches us anything, it teaches us to accept our failures, as well as our successes, with quiet dignity and grace.

[starts beating up the creature]

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Son of a bitch! Bastard! I’ll get you for this! What did you do to me? What did you do to me.

Inga: Stop it! Stop that! Stop it! You’ll kill him!

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I don’t want to live. I do not want to live.

Igor: Quiet dignity and grace

[rolls eyes]

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Oh… mama…

Bad statistical analysis has been around a long time, complete with failures every bit as fundamental as this one, which is failure to use the actual definition of a thing, and re-naming something else to suit the results you want to find.

I was in a scientific breakfast meeting a number of years ago, where two “scientists” presented a study on the use of drug treatments vs. surgery in cardiac patients. The groups of patients were randomized, as usual, before the study began. The study then tracked outcomes. Some of the patients that were randomized into the drug group eventually had surgery, because of their poor condition. The researchers disclosed that those people were STILL counted in the “drug” group with respect to outcome, despite having actually been treated with surgery.

There were just a few questions, where members of the audience established that they really did count people who had received surgery as if they had been treated with drugs. Then there was absolute silence in the room, not even any low rumble of the usual side conversations.

That was the day I learned that the scientific equivalent of standing up and waving a big, red BS flag is — silence.

Since then, there have been any number of “scientific” papers and books published, that include gross errors of statistical procedure, such as “The Bell Curve,” which purported to find that differences in IQ tests within the margin of error are significant, and a very large number of papers on the subject of anthropogenic global warming, which purport to find deep meaning in in experimental noise.

Our schools need to start teaching rigorous experimental statistics. It’s not that hard, the basics are well within reach of several different middle and high school classes.

So these are the “doctors” one finds in the surgery department? Remind me not to get ill near that place. Imagine if “intent” was the only basis for science and medicine in surgery. Unfortunately, this isn’t new. The New England Journal of Medicine, years ago, published an article praising the DC gun ban. Their conclusions included the success of the ban after being passed but not yet implemented. When the murder rate skyrocketed after the ban, the article said that because the ban was effective, as more died it really meant more lives were bring saved. The article also did not correct for population changes as the population decreased after the ban, which would drive incidence numbers up.

Excellent article, as always, but I am surprised at your expressed surprise:

“What is surprising is that the authors of this paper–who hold positions at Schools of Medicine and Schools of Public Health (and, it must be noted, a School of Social Justice)–did not themselves make any apparent effort to validate the data set on which they were basing their paper.”

Our entire “educational” system is a gigantic propaganda mill. It is as dangerous to believe what comes from them as it is to believe what comes from our government.

    JoAnne in reply to Rick. | November 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    As an example of the great teaching going on in colleges these days, my DIL asked me why we started the war with Japan. She was valedictorian of her class.

      Spiny Norman in reply to JoAnne. | November 6, 2015 at 2:02 pm

      I think the currently-popular “Zinn-esque” narrative is “pure racism” and “capitalist greed” (the war economy, see?).

Fantastic set of essays. This one is particularly delightful in its tenacity, with the untimate conclusion that some podunk journalist determined the case selection–very poorly–which was used uncritically by the authors.

Valerie, while I never read the Bell Curve carefully, I do not recall the authors doing what you say. Could you elaborate?

Andrew, I think you and Brer Fox have a lot in common when he met the tar baby. No matter how hard you hit it, you get stickey and stuck. You can’t win against a tar baby. Especially one with a phony Phd.

Who performed the peer review before publication?

    I wondered about that too. Apparently, the peer reviewers (assuming there really was some kind of review) didn’t know enough to question such an obviously tainted dataset. That speaks badly of more than just the idiots who wrote the piece.

    Sharpshooter in reply to davod. | November 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    “Who performed the peer review before publication?”

    Their peers; just as schizophrenic as they are.

From my comment on your last post on this subject:

I watched the entire N24 interview.

Andrew, you are truly a rock star. The interviewer kept throwing sinker after wicked curve after chin music, as if he’d heard none of your previous answers, and you hit each and every pitch not just out of the park but way, way out of the park.

He wanted you bad but you are one cool customer. An absolutely masterful performance. You have a gift. Common law is surely grounded in common sense and you have the latter in spades. Not to mention infinite patience.

Keep up the wonderful work you do.


I am enjoying your posts on this topic. You should follow through on the journal rebuttal. The journal appears to be highly ranked in the health field. This poorly conceived paper should not advance the political goals and tenure applications of the authors. WUSTL’s website has a congratulatory post citing this paper as nearly definitive proof that SYG is akin to Jim Crow. Again, a rebuttal commentary is more than fitting. I would be glad to help you with the rebuttal. The author’s responses via email and twitter do not help their case.

First, the experimental design is irredeemably flawed. Critically, the experimental design cannot evaluate the impact of SYG-retreat. Through logistic regression, the paper compared the probability of conviction based on the race of the victim. However, any SYG case (i.e. a case where duty to retreat is dispositive) cannot result in a conviction in an SYG state. Therefore, the probability of conviction is 0 in every Florida SYG case. This line of reasoning refutes the methodology behind the paper’s key finding. It should be made clear that the authors’ result does not measure the impact of SYG/retreat.

Second, the paper did not achieve its goal of measuring the impact of SYG legislation. The paper does not demonstrate an understanding of the nuances of SYG and does not employ a methodology capable of assessing the law’s impact. Instead, the paper found a pattern in a partial list of self defense cases compiled by journalists.

Third, the process for constructing the data set casts serious doubts about any patterns that might be found within the data set. The local Tampa Bay reporters who compiled the list of cases are an unreliable source for determining which cases hinge on SYG. Moreover, there is a the risk of a selection bias in what cases the reporters included in the data set. In short, the reporters’ knowledge of and disposition towards including cases can produce a slant with regards to which cases make it into the data set. The Tampa Bay Times admits that its data set does not include all relevant cases. “[The data set] does not include scores of less serious cases from around the state.” Furthermore, the authors of the paper have conceded that there could be limitations with the data set. Not only does the paper’s key finding not assess the impact of SYG/retreat, the key finding could simply be the result of what cases the TBT was aware of or decided to include in its data set.

I think you came across something really exciting when you found problems with the non-SYG cases in the data set. I hope you write the rebuttal to show that the paper does not have assess the impact of SYG.


They live in such a bubble that they think they’re smart.

They aren’t.

(Warning: The Sarcasm Button has been Activated)

Just imagine if you will, that AB and John Lott were able to marry and have children together. And raise those children to to be mirror images of their parents with the ability to defend the lawful use of firearms in court and to publish papers and write books on the the effective use of firearms in saving lives.

I can see a violent revolution breaking out among the gun control and abortion advocates as well as the the liberal ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many other liberal educational institutions in the Ivy League Law schools.
I would call the spawn of such a union “The Children of the Cult of Self Defense”! Imagine the furor of the liberal media and TV networks.

“Sarcasm Button Off”

The above is a nightmare for some, but only a pleasant dream for me. I spend my spare time wondering if I should replace my health insurance with a legal self defense insurance policy.

Here we have a biostatistician, displaying a “FunkyBlackademics” hashtag, publishing indefensible race-baiting tripe.

Ain’t affirmative action a great thing?

So those cases were related to Stand Your Ground cases?

Third cousins, twice removed?

Matthew Carberry | November 7, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Note that this “research”, like most of the new anti-gun output, is by people with medical training publishing in medical-related journals. They actively avoid the proper venues, econ, legal, and criminological journals, to avoid peer-reviewers with actual subject matter expertise. It’s the same “legal gun ownership is a public health problem” false-premise work pioneered by the CDC.

The contrary is true for sound gun/crime research, regardless of findings. It is published by researchers with relevant training and expertise in journals reviewed by their peers with the same credentials.

Char Char Binks | November 7, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Why is there no mention in this sciencey study of the overwhelmingly black nature of those claiming SYG in Florida? Do their lives not matter?

Two two clowns don’t really conger up a load of confidence. Contrast those two tribalists with the works of the magnificent Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.

Get the popcorn ready. The Stand Your Ground discussion on the front pages will resume shortly:

Note within the story the citation to the Tampa Bay Times study.