Justice

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Host intro: A strongly held belief, even when it's wrong, can often prevail over the facts. Sometimes the results are inconsequential. But sometimes, they're poisonous. Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis wants to dispel one false belief today.

The O.J. Simpson verdict notwithstanding, it's an article of faith among many blacks that the court system is stacked against them.

But a recent study by the Center for Equal Opportunity shows not only that this is wrong, but that the opposite is often true.

Basing their results on Bureau of Justice statistics, center researchers found that in 98 percent of felony cases, white defendants were more likely than blacks to earn punishment: a few percentage points more likely in murder, assault and robbery; 20 percent more likely in child abuse, extortion and manslaughter; more than twice as likely in rape.

Only a small percentage of the cases actually went before a jury, but in cases with jury verdicts the general trend remains the same. And center analysts note that the effect of jury verdicts trickles down through the system: if prosecutors think juries are likely to acquit, they may be more likely to drop a case or offer a plea bargain.

Indeed, some statistics hint at reverse racism: juries in urban areas with large black populations acquitting a higher percentage of black defendants on principle. If that's true, justice isn't blind, it's been blinded.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Host intro: Tomorrow, Pete du Pont looks at charter schools, and asks why some are so opposed to them.