Free Article: Conviction Odds in Chicago Homicide Cases – Does Race/Ethnicity Matter?

The Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, published by Taylor & Francis, has made the following article available free of charge until the end of 2014. To access the article please click the title of the article below. To download a PDF of the article, please click here.

Conviction Odds in Chicago Homicide Cases: Does Race/Ethnicity Matter?


Christine Martin, Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA


This study investigates disparity as it exists in the conviction of Latino, African American, and White offenders in Chicago homicide cases. The study participants were adults who had been identified by the Chicago Police Department as suspects in homicide incidents for the years 1990 through 1995. Information about the offender, victim, homicide incident, and adjudication of the homi- cide case in court was collected from police and court records. Logis- tic regression modeling was used to determine the odds of conviction for Latino, African American, and White homicide offenders at the adjudication decision point of criminal case processing. Results in- dicated that in Chicago homicide cases, when deciding guilt or no guilt for Class M Felony murder, neither race nor ethnicity mattered; what did matter the most was the offender–victim relationship, the number of charges filed against the offender, and the mode of conviction. This study continues the important tradition in racial and ethnic disparity studies of measuring the effect of offender–victim dyads on case outcomes. It builds on prior research in 2 ways: (a) by measuring the impact of the offender–victim dyad’s race and ethnicity on conviction odds and (b) by expanding the scope of case-processing research through examining decision making at the pre-sentence adjudication stage, a point researchers have heretofore rarely examined.

KEYTERMS: Racial-ethnic disparity, conviction odds, extra-legal factors, homicide, prosecutorial discretion

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