Cumulative Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Potentially Capital Cases: A Multistage Analysis of Pretrial Disparities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To understand how racial/ethnic disparities are formed and sustained within death penalty institutions, this study tracks homicide cases through multiple stages of Los Angeles County’s criminal justice system. Drawing upon cumulative disadvantage research, this study focuses on the accumulation of racial/ethnic biases across multiple decision-making points. Logistic regressions seek to answer the following questions: (1) does victim/defendant race/ethnicity influence prosecutorial decision-making? and (2) if so, do these racial/ethnic disparities accumulate across multiple stages of the criminal justice system? Results indicate that cases with minority victims are less likely to involve a death-eligible charge or death notice. Moreover, these racial/ethnic disparities increase as cases advance through the courts, producing a Whiter pool of victims at later stages in the process. Defendant race/ethnicity is not predictive of death penalty charging decisions but does moderate the influence of victim race/ethnicity such that cases with minority defendants and White victims are treated more punitively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-249
Number of pages25
JournalCriminal Justice Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020



  • capital punishment
  • corrections
  • court
  • courts/law
  • other
  • quantitative methods
  • race and crime/justice
  • violent behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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