CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Race has been at the center of the latest controversial "stand your ground" case in Florida, in which a white man shot and killed a black man in an argument over a parking spot.
- Researchers taking close look at data from 'stand your ground' shootings
- 3 studies came to varying conclusions on race benefits of defense
- Markeis McGlockton shot, killed during an argument over parking space
- RELATED: Trayvon Martin's parents meet Markeis McGlockton's family
Surveillance video shows Markeis McGlockton, 28, pushed 48-year-old Michael Drejka to the ground in an altercation July 19 just before Drejka shoots McGlockton.
The Pinellas County Sheriff didn't make an arrest, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law.
Attorneys for McGlockton's family say the stand-your-ground law helps people who are white and hurts people of color. The family's attorneys say that if Drejka were black and McGlockton were white, this likely would have had a different outcome.
Is there any legitimacy to that claim?
A cross-section of social scientists who have conducted studies about the role race plays in a stand-your-ground case and who benefits from using that defense came to different conclusions.
A study by Dr. John Roman, a senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, used an FBI database. It looked into nationwide cases of justifiable homicide and stand-your-ground from 2005 to 2010 in every state except Florida.
His study found that race does play a role in these cases.
"We tried to look at when the shooter is black and the victim is white, what is the likelihood that that's ruled justified vs. cases where the shooter is white and the victim is black. (When) the shooter is white and the victim is black, it's 10 times more likely to be (ruled) justified," Roman said.
He said that looking at the races of people involved and concluding that more African-Americans kill each other, therefore they benefit more, confuses the conclusion.
"I think what that does is that it confuses two different issues," Roman said. "It puts them together to lead you to a conclusion that 'stand your ground' is helpful in a way from the conclusion that there are big racial disparities," Roman said.
Published in 2013, it was presented as testimony in a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. For his research, Lott used a Tampa Bay Times database that examined stand-your-ground cases from 2005 to 2013 in Florida.
"What you found was that, not surprisingly, blacks were much more likely than other groups to use 'stand your ground' laws, because they're most likely to be victims of violent crimes. And they were more successful," Lott said. "So this notion that people who shot blacks got lower penalties... Well, it was the blacks who were doing the shooting who got the lower penalties," he said.
"So the issue is, is there racism here? And the point is you just can't look at the penalties for people who shoot blacks. You have to see if there's a difference between blacks shooting blacks and whites shooting blacks or Hispanics."
Murphy said his findings show that race clearly plays a role in deciding these cases.
"The main finding is that a stand-your-ground defense can work sometimes if you're a white person defending yourself against other people, whether it be white people or black people," Murphy said.
"(A) stand-your-ground defense can work for white people. It almost never works for black defendants defending themselves against white victims," Murphy said his study found. "From the data that I have, the chances of a black defendant getting off on a stand-your-ground case with a white victim just simply almost never happens."
All three researchers said they considered the races of both people involved in the cases, along with their relationships. But even with the data they collected, the information doesn't give up-to-date statistics. The most recent study is from cases from 2005 to 2013.
Since then, the "stand your ground" law has changed in Florida, putting the burden on the state to prove that the case isn't stand your ground.
Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School professor Brendan Beery said more data need to be collected to determine this race factor. But he said based on scientific research done on other crimes in this country, there's a strong possibility that race does play a factor in these kinds of cases.
"It would be very helpful if there was a consensus, and that would take a very broad-based study with a lot of Ph.D.s involved trying to figure out the impact both on the person who was invoking the stand-your-ground defense and with regard to whoever the decedent was, whoever was killed, the ethnicity of that person," Beery said.
"Both of those have to be looked at, and from what I'm seeing so far, I don't see studies that are conclusive on that," Beery said.
Those who decide to conduct another "stand your ground" study have their work cut out for them. There's not one designated place to find the information for the state of Florida. Law enforcement agencies in Florida don't have a state or federal requirement to report such cases where the defendant has used "stand your ground" as a defense.