Race and Prosecution in Manhattan

by Besiki Kutateladze; Mary Crowley; Whitney Tymas

Jul 1, 2014

This report summarizes a two-year study which analyzed more than 200,000 cases. It focuses on the role of prosecutors during several points of a criminal case – case acceptance for prosecution, dismissals, pretrial detention, plea bargaining, and sentencing recommendations – and whether prosecutorial discretion contributes to racially and ethnically disparate outcomes. While the best predictors of case outcomes were factors that directly pertained to legal aspects of a case – including the seriousness of the charge, the defendant's prior record, and the offense type – the research also found that race remained a factor in case outcomes.
  • DANY prosecutes nearly all cases brought by the police, with no noticeable racial or ethnic differences at case screening. For subsequent decisions, disparities varied by discretionary point and offense category
  • Compared to similarly situated white defendants:
  • Blacks charged with drug offenses were more likely to receive more punitive plea offers and custodial sentences.
  • Blacks with misdemeanor drug offenses were more likely to have their cases dismissed or be detained at arraignment. They were also 27 percent more likely to receive a custodial sentence offer and 15 percent more likely to be imprisoned.
  • Likewise, Blacks with misdemeanor person offenses were more likely to be detained at arraignment and 15 percent more likely to be imprisoned.