The impact of race on the adjudication of sexual assault and other violent crimes

Christopher D. Maxwell, Amanda L. Robinson*, Lori A. Post

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This study assessed whether sexual assault offenders were differently adjudicated from other violent felons and to what extent any differences in adjudication decisions were explained by the defendant's race. Five court decisions were analyzed using a weighted sample of 41,151 cases adjudicated between 1990 and 1996 that were representative of cases in the seventy-five most populous United States counties. The results did not support the hypothesis that sexual assault cases were given, on average, more leniency than less serious violent offenses, however, various adjudication decisions for the four violent offenses were moderated by the defendant's race. Interaction models showed minorities were treated more punitively compared to Whites when they were charged with an assault, robbery, or murder, but they were treated more leniently when they were charged with a sexual assault. Explanatory models that accounted for the differential processing of minorities that were disproportionately lenient or punitive, depending on the crime, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-538
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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