Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Tanja Link

Second Advisor

Dr. Peter Fenton

Third Advisor

Dr. Samuel Abaidoo


‘Stand Your Ground’ (SYG) laws continue to be a source of controversy, even more so after the shooting death of an unarmed black teen in Florida, Trayvon Martin. Upon abolishing the ‘duty to retreat,’ the law has been criticized for allowing ordinary citizens to carry out vigilante justice. The media has shed light on a few incidents which indicate that young black males may be vulnerable to SYG laws. Prior research on SYG laws have mostly focused on racial disparities in the outcomes of cases and deterrence effects of the law, but this research should contribute to the study of SYG laws by focusing on demographic disparities among victims of self-defense acts since after the law’s enactment in Florida, to ascertain if there is a racial disparity of victims in self-defense acts. In doing so, this paper examined three important aspects of self-defense acts: the proportionality of the force, the ability to avoid, and the initial aggressor. Secondary analysis of data on self-defense cases was conducted through bivariate analysis using cross tabulation and chi-square tests. Results suggest that the SYG law does not seem to have a disproportionate effect on certain race or age groups of victims when it comes to the use of initial aggression, disproportionate force, and non-avoidance by the accused.