Spouse Murder Cases Simpson Acquittal Unusual, Statistics Show

By The | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 14, 1995 | Go to article overview

Spouse Murder Cases Simpson Acquittal Unusual, Statistics Show


The, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ONLY 2 PERCENT of husbands charged with killing their wives are acquitted, according to a Justice Department study that suggests that the verdict in the O.J. Simpson case was unusual.

And the race of the accused or the victim does not appear to affect the verdicts or sentences, according to the study of spouse murder cases in the nation's 75 largest counties.

Some experts said the results undermine the perception by some critics of Simpson's acquittal. These critics say that black juries won't convict black defendants, so the jury system should be altered.

Patrick Langan, senior Justice Department statistician and co-author of the study, said, "These large counties, which include Philadelphia, Chicago and New York, have large black populations with many black juries. Those black jurors are not tolerant of husbands murdering wives."

Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation said the data indicated that race and gender were not undermining justice in spousal murder cases. "The difference in the Simpson case was the power of money," she said. "What normal person would have had the money for the best experts and enough lawyers to mount tens of thousands of objections?"

Another major finding of the study by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics was that wives charged with killing their husbands were convicted less often than husbands facing similar charges of murdering their spouses. The study said this was largely because women successfully argued that they were defending themselves from husbands who had abused them.

The study sampled spouse murder cases concluded in 1988 and projected that 318 husbands and 222 wives had their cases concluded that year in the 75 counties, where more than half of all murders occur each year.

Of the male defendants, 46 percent pleaded guilty, 41 percent were convicted at trial, 11 percent were not prosecuted and 2 percent were acquitted at trial. …

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