Findings On Racial Disparity Released From Denver District Attorney's Office

Those involved in the study acknowledge this is jus tone piece of the puzzle.

Video Transcript

- In a year of evolving racial equality, the Denver DA's office released findings of a new study today on racial disparities. The goal, to help address concerns about people of color and the criminal justice system.

- But this report focuses only on felony cases brought by the DA for one year, between 2017 and 2018. CBS 4's Shawn Chitnis is here to break down the report and its significance. Sean.

SHAWN CHITNIS: Well, Jim and Karen, those involved in putting together this report acknowledge that this is just one piece of the bigger puzzle. And they say that it is possible for these results showing that the DA's office is doing the right job or taking the right approach, overall. That is plausible.

And at the same time, many people can still believe that there is so much reform needed for the entire criminal justice system. The district attorney says this report is just one part of an effort to ensure fair justice for everyone.

BETH MCCANN: In some limited areas where we need to look further, there is a discrepancy.

SHAWN CHITNIS: One of the highlights from the study includes finding Black defendants were more likely to get felony cases dismissed than white defendants. Hispanic defendants were equally likely to get felony cases dismissed as white defendants. But other takeaways from the report show minorities at a disadvantage.

DR. JOSE SILVA: This is one approach to the larger system of those oppressive issues and systems that are [INAUDIBLE] on by folks of color.

- White defendants were more than twice as likely to have cases deferred than defendants of color. Race and ethnicity were not found to be associated with charge reductions in plea agreements. White defendants were more likely to have their drug cases handled in drug court, where others would have their cases sent to district court or other units.

DR. ROBERT DAVIS: There is a racial component, and dare I say racist component, to how policing is done in African-American communities, which then results in how they show up in the District Attorney's Office.

SHAWN CHITNIS: Those who helped to organize the study acknowledge that this is just a snapshot.

DR. ELYSIA CLEMENS: When we see disparities at the end of a system, it means there's a long way to go back and say, how did people get to that point to begin with?

SHAWN CHITNIS: And Beth McCann will be discussing the results of this report and its findings on her office with other DAs across the state at a forum tomorrow. We've also heard that those that are working to advocate for criminal justice reform all the time here in Colorado are currently taking a critical look at this report, and expect to release their reaction to it in the next week. Reporting live tonight in downtown Denver, Shawn Chitnis covering Colorado First.