It is “well-documented” that defendants in ordinary self-defense cases have a tendency to emphasize the race of the assailant, if the assailant is black, in order to make the conduct seem more reasonable to jurors. In other words, one is more likely to consider the use of deadly force appropriate when faced with a black assailant. It follows that if expansion of Castle Doctrine laws increases the opportunity to use force, then there will be more misuse of deadly force due to racial bias.
The fallout surrounding the Joe Horn incident highlights this issue. Horn, who is white, described the burglars as being “black” to the 911 operator. After the grand jury cleared Horn in the shootings, Quanell X, a local minority rights activist, stated that, “there is not a snowflake’s chance in hell that an African-American man could do what Joe Horn did and get away with it. There is no longer a need for the criminal justice system, police, judge or jury. You can be all of that on your own.” Quanell X has staged protests over the incident, and over the larger issue of whether the Castle Doctrine legalizes racially motivated violence.
This is not the first time that a high profile use of self-defense laws has created racial tension. Most notable is the Bernie Goetz incident in 1984, which raised the question of whether race affected the jurors’ and Goetz’s belief as to what degree of force was reasonable. Some critics have characterized the Geotz decision as “opening the hunting season on young black men.” Similar accusations were made following the Joe Horn incident.The Joe Horn Case
when local resident Joe Horn shot and killed two men burgling his neighbor's home. Publicized recordings of Horn's exchange with emergency dispatch indicate that he was asked repeatedly not to interfere with the burglary because the police would soon be on hand