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The impact of race and extra-legal factors in charging defendants with serious sexual assault: Findings from a five-year study of one Pennsylvania court jurisdiction
Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice  (IF),  Pub Date : 2018-04-02, DOI: 10.1080/15377938.2018.1439791
Katy M. Colon, Philip R. Kavanaugh, Don Hummer, Eileen M. Ahlin

ABSTRACT Research on sexual assault case processing remains mixed regarding how extra-legal factors such as the racial-ethnic composition of the defendant-victim dyad may impact prosecutorial decision-making. We use data from 2006–2010 in a Pennsylvania county court jurisdiction to examine the victim- and defendant-related factors that influence charging decisions. We also explore how the demographic and offense characteristics influence decisions to prosecute offenders for more serious types of sexual assault. Our findings indicate that the racial composition of the defendant-victim dyad contributed to the prosecutorial decision to charge an offender with a more serious sexual assault, while victim characteristics and use of violence during the offense were not related to seriousness of the charge.