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MEMORANDUM To: From: Subject: Senate Committee on the Judiciary Attention: Dan Swanson

September 16, 2013

William J. Krouse, Specialist in Domestic Security and Crime Policy, 7-2225 Matt Deaton, Presidential Management Fellow, 7-1122 Supplementary Homicide Report Data on Black and White Inter-Racial Justifiable Homicides in Comparison (2001-2010)

Per your request, this memorandum provides a national, statistical baseline with which to assess whether inter-racial justifiable homicides—particularly White-on-Black justifiable homicides—might have increased during the decade (2001-2010). Recent studies have suggested that differences in the percentages of homicide cases that are classified as justifiable homicides for incidents where a Black offender kills a White victim compared to where a White offender kills a Black victim might be evidence of “racial disparities,” and these “disparities” could be amplified by self-defense laws—known collectively as “stand your ground” (SYG) laws1—that have been passed in over half the states since 2005.2 Similarly, others have suggested that these laws arguably lower the consequences for shooting a person and have resulted or could possibly result in an increase in homicides (justifiable or not).3 This memorandum does not evaluate these studies, nor does it examine SYG laws. Rather, this memorandum presents raw data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHRs)4 related to incidents of justifiable homicide for the years 2001 through 2010. The SHR data were analyzed to compare Black and White inter-racial justifiable homicide

Under the common law “Castle Doctrine,” depending on state law, a resident might be under little or no obligation to retreat if a stranger forcibly enters his or her residence and threatens him or her with bodily harm. Although SYG laws differ considerably from state-to-state, they basically extend the Castle Doctrine to places, other than one’s home, where a person might have a legal right to be. 2 See John K. Norman, Race, Justifiable Homicide, and Stand Your Ground Laws: Analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Report Data, Urban Institute, July 2013, 14 pp., available at 3 Cheng Cheng and Mark Hoekstra, Does Strengthening Self-Defense Law Deter Crime or Escalate Violence? Evidence from Expansions to Castle Doctrine, 42 pp, presented in the Testimony of Mark Hoekstra, Associate Professor of Economics, Texas A&M University, Before the American Bar Association National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws, February 8, 2013, available at 4 As part of the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) program, local law enforcement agencies are asked to record and report monthly to the FBI for their jurisdictions the total number or murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies, motor vehicle thefts, and arsons. Through the SHR program, which is part of the UCR program, states are asked to collect and report additional information on homicides with regard to victim-offender relationships and event circumstances. The form that local officials fill out as part of this program is available at

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rates5 with national homicide rates.6 The SHR data were disaggregated to include single victim/single offender (one-on-one) homicides that were firearms-related (see Table 1). For those one-on-one, firearmsrelated homicide cases, the SHR were further disaggregated to include homicides, classified as justifiable, where the victim and offender were strangers (see Table 2).7 Before proceeding, it is significant to note several data limitations.  First, the data do not include crime data reported by the state of Florida to the FBI, because of formatting problems associated with computer systems development in that state.8 Second, the data only reflect cases that are initially categorized by law enforcement agencies and they do not reflect any subsequent determination by the criminal justice system (i.e., final case dispositions). Third, with regard to race, the data presented in this memorandum make no allowance for the proportion of the population that Blacks and Whites comprise, respectively, within the United States. Fourth, the analysis in this memorandum only includes incidents in which both parties are known to be Black and White, which does not include unsolved homicides in which the offender ’s race is unknown.

In addition, justifiable homicides by private citizens historically might have been under-reported (before 2006), but law enforcement nationally might have been prompted to pay greater attention to justifiable homicide incidents in more recent years because of the controversial nature of SYG laws.9 Also, it is noteworthy that justifiable homicides, even between strangers, could have occurred under circumstances that have little to do with SYG laws. For example, a private citizen could have killed an armed robber in a bank or convenience store. Alternatively, these cases could include justifiable homicides carried out in private residences and could possibly fall under the “Castle Doctrine.” Notwithstanding data limitations, the SHR data presented in this memorandum show that there is a difference in the percentage of homicides that were classified as justifiable for Black-on-White compared to White-on-Black cases. And, for White-on-Black justifiable homicides, the number of incidents and percentages increased for 2006-2010, the time period in which several states enacted SYG laws, compared to 2001-2005.


In this memorandum, the justifiable homicide data do not include justifiable homicides by law enforcement. The SHR data were sorted to include private citizen justifiable homicides only. The FBI defines “private citizen justifiable homicides” as the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen. 6 In this memorandum, the national homicide data include private citizen justifiable homicide cases, as well as murder and nonnegligent manslaughter cases. The FBI defines “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter” as the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. 7 At the end of this memorandum, there are two tables (Tables 3 and 4) with annual data used to compile Table 1 and 2. In addition, Tables 3 and 4 include data for Black-on-Black and White-on-White justifiable homicides under the conditions outlined in this memorandum. 8 CRS conversation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division on August 29, 2013. 9 CRS conversation with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) at the Department of Justice. BJS also noted that an assessment of the quality of private citizen justifiable homicide data has not been conducted.

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Table 1. Black and White Inter-Racial, Single Victim/Single Offender, Firearms-Related Justifiable Homicides (2001-2010)
Black-onWhite Justifiable Homicides as a % of Black-onWhite Homicides 1.7% 1.8% 1.8% White-onBlack Justifiable Homicides as a % of White-onBlack Homicides 16.7% 20.7% 18.7%

Black-onWhite Homicides 20012005 20062010 20012010 1,484 1,529 3,013

Black-onWhite Justifiable Homicides 25 28 53

White-onBlack Homicides 802 817 1,619

White-onBlack Justifiable Homicides 134 169 303

Source: Supplementary Homicide Reports.

Under the conditions described above, Table 1 shows that, for 2001-2005 and 2006-2010, less than 2% of Black-on-White homicides were classified as justifiable. By comparison, nearly 19% of White-on-Black homicides were classified as justifiable. For those time periods, White-on-Black justifiable homicides increased from 134 to 169, or 26.1%. On average, for the entire decade (2001-2010), there were 5.3 cases of Black-on-White justifiable homicides compared to 30.3 White-on-Black justifiable homicide cases, a ratio of one-to-six. Table 2. Black and White Inter-Racial, Stranger-on-Stranger, Single Victim/Single Offender, Firearms-Related Justifiable Homicides (2001-2010)
Black-onWhite Justifiable Homicides as a % of Black-onWhite Homicides 3.1% 3.2% 3.1% White-onBlack Justifiable Homicides as a % of White-onBlack Homicides 32.4% 36.7% 34.6%

Black-onWhite Homicides 20012005 20062010 20012010 609 571 1,180

Black-onWhite Justifiable Homicides 19 18 37

White-onBlack Homicides 333 360 693

White-onBlack Justifiable Homicides 108 132 240

Source: Supplementary Homicide Reports.

Under the conditions described above, Table 2 shows that, for 2001-2005 and 2006-2010, about 3% of Black-on-White, stranger-on-stranger homicides were classified as justifiable. By comparison, nearly 35% of White-on-Black, stranger-on-stranger homicides were classified as justifiable for those same time periods. Again, for those time periods, the number of White-on-Black, stranger-on-stranger justifiable homicides increased from 108 to 132, or by 22.2%. On average, for the years 2001-through 2010, there were 3.7 cases of Black-on-White justifiable homicides compared to 24.0 White-on-Black justifiable

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homicide cases, a ratio of one-to-six. At the same time, Blacks killed Whites (1,180) more often than Whites killed Blacks (693).

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