DA Study: Prosecutors Showed No Racial Bias

​For release on December 07, 2017 

Marisa McKeown, Supervising Deputy District Attorney
Crime Strategies Unit
(408) 792-2608



A study of how prosecutors charge defendants showed no bias, according to a Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office report released today.

The study showed that cases were handled similarly by prosecutors whether or not they knew the defendant’s race.

The ongoing review is part of a statistical examination to see if the Office handles cases fairly regarding race. The 16-page updated 2017 Race and Prosecutions report and the accompanying appendix breaks down race-related statistics with ongoing analysis. District Attorney Jeff Rosen launched the unprecedented study last year in response to chronic racial disproportion in the criminal justice system.

DA Rosen said in the report: “Disproportionality within the criminal justice system is likely to be a persistent, pernicious problem. We will not shirk from it. The fight to make sure that the system is fair to every person in our community may not be won in a year, or 10. We will work toward that goal, growing better and fairer, as a prosecutor’s office and as a community.”

In the controlled study of case issuing and negotiating practices, DA’s Office staff worked with academic think tank BetaGov and removed racial identifiers from 74 cases before they were brought to the prosecutors in the Office’s Issuing Unit for consideration.

Prosecutors were first asked to make a race-blind charging decision. During the study, half of the reviewed cases were redacted (race-blind) and half were not redacted (control group) to allow the study to compare the results. In the initial review, the issuing rates on felony cases seem to be statistically similar to the control group. 

The report also examined county-wide prosecution statistics, revealing racial disproportionality in the defendant population. Black/African-American defendants represent 12 percent of the County’s felony cases, despite making up only two percent of the County’s population. Hispanic/Latinos make up 45 percent of the felony defendants, and 27 percent of the population. White/Caucasian defendants make up 21 percent of the felony defendants and more than a third of the population. Asian/Pacific Islander defendants make up eight percent of the felony defendants in Santa Clara County, and 34 percent of the County’s population.

Another finding in this year’s report was that defendants charged and crime victims served by the DA’s Office often come from the same parts of the county. Four of the five top zip codes for both defendants and crime victims in 2016 were the same.

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