White people who kill black people in 'Stand Your Ground' states are 354% more likely to be cleared of murder
Drawn from a study using FBI data on homicides between 2005 to 2009
31 states across the U.S. have the 'Stand your Ground' law
Florida where Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin has the self-defence law
By Jill Reilly
Published: 06:00 EST, 15 July 2013 | Updated: 14:39 EST, 15 July 2013
White people who kill black people in 'Stand Your Ground' states are 354 per cent more likely to be found justified in their killing than a white person who kills another white person, according to research.
On Saturday George Zimmerman, 29, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of 17-year old-Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
But he was not arrested for 44 days after the February 26, 2012, shooting as police in Sanford insisted that Florida's Stand Your Ground law on self-defence prohibited them from bringing charges - Florida gives people wide latitude to use deadly force if they fear death or bodily harm.
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Victim: George Zimmerman was accused of murdering the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin after following him with a gun last year
Relief: George Zimmerman breaks into a smile of relief a few moments after being cleared of all charges
On Saturday George Zimmerman, 29, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Benjamin Martin
The result was drawn from a study using FBI data conducted by John Roman, a senior analyst at Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center.
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He examined racial disparity using data on 43,500 homicides from 2005 to 2009 - the most recent years for which data was available, reported PBS.
He narrowed the sample to about 5,000 homicides by only analysing killings in which there was a single shooter and a single victim, both of whom were strangers to each other.
Roman looked specifically at 'justified' homicides - defined as the killing of a felon during the commission of a felony, committed by private citizens.
He discovered that killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks.
Frontline then asked him to analyse the data and look for findings between states which had Stand Your Ground versus those without the laws.
Under the Stand Your Ground law, which was approved in 2005 and applies in over 30 states, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.
The self-defence law applies in Florida where Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin dead.
The court was told that he had followed the unarmed youngster through a park because he looked like he was 'up to no good.'
But Zimmerman, a volunteer neighbourhood watchman, claimed he shot Martin in self-defence, and that the teen punched him repeatedly before deciding to use lethal force.
The statute is central to Zimmerman's defense in a case that captivated the United States throughout much of 2012 because police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman based on his self-defense argument and right to use deadly force under Florida law.
Roman analysed the pool of 43,500 homicides by race in states with Stand Your Ground laws and those without them.
He found that whites who kill blacks in non-Stand Your Ground states are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person.
But in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.
But the findings are not yet conclusive - the data doesn’t show the circumstances behind the killings, for example whether the people who were shot were involved in home invasions or in a confrontation on the street.
Plus there are less white-on-black shootings in the FBI data -only 25 total in both the Stand Your Ground and non-Stand Your Ground states.
Additionally Stand Your Ground laws can be applied at multiple points during an investigation.
Zimmerman was not arrested for over a month following the shooting as police in Sanford insisted that Florida's Stand Your Ground law on self-defence prohibited them from bringing charges.
A special prosecutor later brought the murder charge.
The prosecutor accused Zimmerman of profiling Martin and chasing him vigilante-style rather than waiting for police to arrive.
Zimmerman left the courthouse as a free man, although the NAACP has called for the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman.
Though the department has a history of using federal civil rights law in an effort to convict defendants who've previously been acquitted in state cases, it's not always easy.
The department said in a statement Sunday afternoon that it's looking into the case to determine whether federal civil rights charges should be filed.
Supporters have suggested that Martin's parents file a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against Zimmerman.
Zimmerman's lawyers have said he'll seek immunity. Florida's stand your ground law may offer him that immunity if a judge concludes he acted in self-defense, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami.