LI: Stand-Your-Ground Racial Bias Study used “media definition,” not “legal definition”


Last week at Legal Insurrection I wrote a post about a “scientific” study of Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground (SYG) law. That paper was published in the Elsevier journal “Social Science & Medicine.” The paper: “Race, law, and health: Examination of ‘Stand Your Ground’ (SYG) and defendant convictions in Florida” (Social Science & Medicine, Volume 142, October 2015, pages 194-201; pay-walled )

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

In that paper the authors applied a Public Health Critical Theory Methodology to the question of whether Florida’s SYG law has a quantifiable racial bias. The key finding of the paper is that a “defendant is two times … more likely to be convicted in a case that involves White victims compared to those involving non-White victims” in the context of Florida’s SYG law.

This finding was the result of statistical analysis conducted on a set of 204 purported SYG cases drawn from a total collection of 237 purported SYG cases collected by the Tampa Bay Times, a regional Florida newspaper.

Sadly, when I examined each of the overall dataset of 237 cases individually (you’re welcome) I found that fully 181 of them simply could not be SYG cases as a matter of legal definition. (I won’t repeat here the detailed reasons why they could not be SYG cases; if you’re interested just go read my previous post.)

That left only 56 possible SYG cases in the whole dataset of 237. Even if all 56 of these were included in the authors’ working data set of 204, that means the other 148 (over 70%) of the purported 204 SYG cases from which they drew their key finding were not, as a simple matter of legal definition, SYG cases at all.

It was this observation that led to last week’s post.

Reaching out to the Journal of Social Science & Medicine

In response to my post several people, including some in the post comments, suggested that I contact the publisher of “Social Science & Medicine” and bring my observations to their attention. Perhaps, it was thought, they would wish to retract the paper once they were made aware of the fundamental defect in its methodology.

Sure, why not. On Wednesday, October 21 I sent the editors what was essentially an email version of my Legal Insurrection post on the paper.

Getting a Response from the Journal!

Really, I didn’t expect to get a reply, so you can imagine my surprise when on Monday, October 26 I in fact received one from Ryan Mowat of “Social Science & Medicine.” Ryan kindly thanked me for my comments, and indicated they would look into the matter.

To read the whole post, click over to Legal Insurrection.