This paper attempts to explore the various facets of criminal homicide – as a crime and as a social reality. This involves defining criminal homicide and its punishment, providing the most recent and complete statistics of criminal offenses in the country as well as presenting criminal homicide from the perspectives of research and law enforcement. Criminal Homicide in the United States Criminal homicide is considered in the United States today along with other homicide offenses are a public health problem because like disease, it significantly lowers the life expectancy of people on a daily basis.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2006), 17,034 persons succumbed to intentional murder representing a victim ratio of 5. 7 out of every 100,000 individuals. Further, the FBI reports that an overwhelming 90. 6 of murders were reported in the Metropolitan Statistical Areas. These areas have a population of 248,798,842 which corresponds to 83% of the total United States Population. Hence, the 6. 2 victims per 100,000 inhabitants in metropolitan areas is a much higher rate than the national figure.
However, national statistics reports do not include deaths by negligence. Because of its nature, the rates of criminal homicide, especially murder, indicate the severity of violence in society. Criminal homicide is a social problem representing dysfunction, non-conformity with established laws and the disregard for human life and dignity. It impacts on the quality of life, particularly with regards to peace and safety, in American communities. What is Criminal Homicide?
Criminal homicide is defined as acts constituting deliberate intention, aforethought, recklessness or negligence which result in the death of another person or other persons (Criminal Law, 2008). The element of premeditation and negligence are what distinguishes criminal homicide from all other acts of homicide. Homicide is broader in that it includes justified murder, accidental death not attributed to negligence, suicide, traffic related deaths, murder committed for self defense and murder in the course of war.
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter as well as manslaughter by negligence are generally what constitute criminal homicide (SecurityonCampus, 2001). This includes murder resulting from the perpetuation of felony crime where all persons involved in it are charged with criminal homicide, regardless of who among them actually committed the killing (Criminal Law, 2008). Murder The FBI has classified murder and non-negligent manslaughter as the most serious of violent crimes in its Uniform Crime Reporting Program because these crimes involve the actual use of force or threat of force.
Murders represented a little more than a percentage of all violent crimes committed in the 2006 nationwide statistical reports. These incidents involved the use of firearms (67. 9%), other weapons (14. 4%), knives and similar weapons (12. 1%) and hands or feet (5. 6%) (FBI, 2006). Regarding the victims, 78. 7% were males where majority were whites (46. 4%) and blacks (49. 5%) aged 18 years old and above (87. 9%). The majority of offenders were also white males (30. 7%) and black males (39.
3%) above 18 years old (60. 7%). However, a considerable percentage was of unknown race and age (more than 27%). Almost half of the victim-offender relationships in murder cases were of unknown circumstance. Of those known, these largely involved robbery, narcotic drug laws, arguments and juvenile gang killings. The offenders were more often acquaintances of the victims or strangers but family members and relatives figured much in murders resulting from arguments. Manslaughter by Negligence
Manslaughter is a less serious homicide offense constituting gross negligence that result in death as opposed to deliberate or willful attempts (Criminal Law, 2008). It involves deaths from the careless or irresponsible employment of firearms and other weapons, animals, vehicles, poisonous substances, equipment, medications or medical procedures (medical manslaughter) and others. Data on deaths due to negligence are excluded from the Department of Justice’s or FBI’s statistical records.
Because the charges of manslaughter is determined by the courts and the Unified Reporting System of the FBI deals with more or less conclusive police investigations, there is general difficulty in including manslaughter by negligence in the crime index. Grading System of Criminal Homicide Offenses State penal laws vary to a certain extent with regards to number of elements that constitute criminal homicide, the typologies of criminal homicide, the degree grading system and consequent punishment. In general, the lower the degree of homicide committed the higher the severity of the crime and its subsequent punishment.
Second degree murder is less serious and generally involves the intent to murder but not in the scale of premeditation as in first degree murder. Both aggravating and mitigating circumstances also figure in determining the degree of the felony. First degree murder is the gravest homicide involving the premeditated, willful or deliberate act to inflict death and is considered a capital offense in most states. It is often accompanied by aggravating circumstances such as a greater number of victims, murder of a child or murder of a law enforcement officer (Criminal Law, 2008).
Individuals convicted of first degree murder are usually meted the death penalty. In states that have not adopted capital punishment, they are sentenced to life imprisonment without parole (reclusion perpetua). Criminal Homicide in Texas: Case Example In Texas where more than 1,000 murders occurred in 2006, the state penal code includes six types of criminal homicide – murder, capital murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, intoxication manslaughter and certain types of feticides (Texas Legislature Online, 2008).
Other states have voluntary manslaughter as a category of criminal homicide but do not include feticides. In the Texas Penal Code, murder is a first degree felony if it is established that the offender knowingly caused the death of a person, intends to cause serious physical injury that will result in death or commits a felony of another type and in the process causes the death of a person (Texas Legislature Online, 2008).
The death penalty is the maximum penalty in Texas for criminal homicide. On the other hand, an accused is charged with second degree felony if s/he provides evidence that s/he was provoked by the victim or victim’s companion and sudden emotions of “anger, terror, rage, fear or resentment” were felt by the accused sufficient for him to inflict death on the victim before there was enough time for the emotions to dissipate (Texas Legislature Online, 2008). Studies Regarding Criminal Homicide
Research on criminal homicide is generally based on two methodologies: descriptive studies of homicide in particular communities and comparative studies relating the degree, prevalence or circumstances of homicide and the socio-economic characteristics of different geographical units (Wiersema, 1996, p. 5). Different criminological theories are also used as perspectives in studies that try to explain the occurrence of criminal homicide or homicide in general.
One is the conflict theory where according to Pratt and Lowencamp (2002), it “has consistently held that in some form, economic conditions, most notably conditions of economic deprivation, are related to crime rates” and that “economic downturns are likely to result in higher crime rates” (p. 5,16). Criminal Homicide and Law Enforcement Law enforcement with regards to criminal homicide is largely influenced by changes in the philosophy of our police departments as the primary law-enforcement agency. Over the past few years, community policing has transformed the way in which law enforcers approached crime.
Today, community policing recognizes the role of members of the community and other government agencies in preventing the occurrence of criminal homicide and other offenses as well as in its investigation. This philosophy enhances the traditional role of the police as limited to responding to criminal homicide as they happen to being actively involved in joint efforts with the community and other concerned sectors in establishing ways to address the roots of these crimes (COPS, 2003). It is a reflection of an understanding of criminal homicide not as a random occurrence but as a social problem.
This directs law enforcement to a more pro-active effort that is more efficient because it employs a multi-agency approach, effective because it is grounded on objective conditions of the community and meaningful to members of the community because it entails their participation. The practice of community policing is expected to translate in a decrease of criminal homicide rates or crime rates in general in the years to come. Conclusion Criminal homicide involves the intent of a person to kill or killing as a result of a person’s negligence. It is a daily occurrence that needs to be effectively addressed.
Although its commission has institutionally prescribed punishments, it has not deterred individuals to become offenders. Research plays a significant role in identifying the patterns and roots of the problem while law-enforcement serves to concretize scientific evidence in actual practice. List of References Bureau of Justice Statistics (2008). Retrieved 23 March 2008 from http://www. ojp. usdoj. gov/bjs/pub/pdf/htus02. pdf COPS Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (2003). What is community policing?. Retrieved 23 March 2008 from http://www. cops. usdoj.
gov/default. asp? Item=36 Criminal Law Lawyer Source (2008). Retrieved 23 March 2008 from http://www. criminal- law-lawyer-source. com/terms/homicide. html Federal Bureau of Investigation (2006). 2006 Crime in the United States. Retrieved 23 March 2008 from http://www. fbi. gov/ucr/cius2006/offenses/violent_crime/index. html Pratt, T. C. and Lowencamp, C. T. (2002). Conflict Theory, Economic Conditions and Homicide: A Time Series Analysis. Homicide Studies, 6(1), pp. 61-83. Retrieved 23 March 2008 from http://www. libarts. wsu. edu/crimj/faculty-staff/PrattVitae2005. pdf
SecurityonCampus (2001). Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting/National Incident-Based Reporting System Crime Definitions (2001). Retrieved 23 March 2008 from http://www. securityoncampus. org/schools/cleryact/definitions. html Texas Legislature Online (2008). Texas Penal Code. Retrieved 23 March 2004 from http://tlo2. tlc. state. tx. us/statutes/pe. toc. htm Wiersema, B. (1996). Community Structure and Patterns in Criminal Homicide: Exploring the Weekend Effect (Final Report). Retrieved 23 March 2008 from www. ncjrs. gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/187353. pdf