Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Arizona State University
- In areas where residents are racially/ethnically homogenous, non-racial factors are the predominant force behind many court outcomes and sentencing decisions.
- Variables such as perception of offender dangerousness and culpability are more significant predictors of case outcome.
- Specifically, offender and victim criminality, and case variables including codefendants, multiple victims, and the type of weapon used to commit the murder are all characteristics that determine case outcome and sentencing length when race and ethnicity is controlled for.
In the article, “The Processing of Homicides in the Courts: An Examination of Multiple Case Outcomes”, Pizarro and her co-authors examine the role that race and ethnicity play on various court dispositions (case dismissal, conviction via plea deal, conviction via trial, acquittal via trial, and sentence length) for homicide offenders in Newark, NJ, where the majority of residents are African American and Latino. The results of their study suggest that in areas where defendants, victims, and the citizenry are racially and ethnically similar, ethnicity was not found to be a significant predictor of case outcome or sentencing length. Other factors, such as age, weapon use, prior crimes, and whether there were multiple victims or perpetrators are more important predictors of case outcome.