SOC *2760 Homicide (DE)
Professor Rob Shearer. [email protected]
Section 1: Sociological Criminology and Homicide: Fact Versus Fiction
-Why is it important to study homicide? (as it is a rare to be a victim of such
1. Just because we may not be directly affected by homicide (remember, though,
some of us will be) does not mean we should be unconcerned about those who are
affected because homicide is not an equally rare event for all. Some groups are
disproportionately affected by these events compared to other groups. It is important to
understand why they are at an increased risk and what this might say about the society
in which we live.
2. The value of an informed public when it comes to violence prevention is
crucial. Most of us get our information on crime and violence from the media and
popular culture. This information may come from television or newspaper coverage of
actual events, true crime representations of select cases, or fictionalized accounts as
portrayed in television dramas, Hollywood movies, or books. Whatever the source, the
clich, if it bleeds, it leads is true when it comes to the frequency with which homicide
is the focus. The result of this emphasis, however, is a public that believes homicide
occurs far more frequently than is reality. Further, our understanding of why homicides
occur may also be misinformed.
3. Just because few of us will be direct victims of homicide does not mean that
we remain unaffected by these events. We are bombarded with images of homicide on
a daily basis and, as a result, we sometimes forget that, although rare compared to
other types of crimes, homicides do occur and they happen to real people and the
impact of their deaths can be far-reaching.
Example: Few Canadians were not waiting anxiously to find out the fate of Victoria
Tori Stafford of Woodstock, Ontario, who was abducted on April 8, 2009. While we
waited, in all parts of the country parents began to keep an ever more vigilant watch on
their children. Adults watched other adults with children, wonderingis that child Tori?
Did that man or woman look suspicious? Should they call the police? We all felt our
stomachs drop when we heard that two individuals had been charged and the search
had begun to locate Tori. This is the situation every time a homicide occurs. A life is
lost. We may never know what some of these victims might have contributed to the
society in which we live if they had been given the chance. Because many victims are
young, like Tori, the potential of their lives and the value they could have brought to
our world will never be realized nor fully understood. Tori never had the chance to complete elementary school. She never had the opportunity to realize her dreams. In
fact, she barely had time to dream. We will never know if she had lived to realize her
dreams, how those dreams might have affected our own social world and contributed,
even if in some small way, to our everyday lives. This loss occurs every time someone is
killed. We all feel the impact whether we realize it or not.
-Kathryn Martin - unit commander for the Toronto Homicide Squad
Martin discusses the impact that murders have on herself as well as other members of
the police force. She states that it is a very physically demanding job in the sense that
you have to stay on the case and receive little sleep. She says that its also emotional
for them always dealing with death but the hardest part she says is telling the family
that their loved one has been murdered, no matter if the good guy was killed by the
bad guy, the bad guy still has a mother and people who love him. She also discusses
how the family always believes that the next step in the process will make them feel
better. For example, if someone is arrested for the homicide, they think they will get rid
of this horrible feeling but it doesnt go away. A family becomes extremely devastated
when they dont take a plea and end up not getting a conviction. They often blame the
police force and people assigned to this case and sometimes react irrationally (when
theyre first hearing about the death of their loved one as well as when a court case is
Davies, Chapter 16 The Impact of Homicide
- Images of murder are everywhere in our culture, from the games we play, to the
books we read to the shows and news we see on the TV. It is even apparent in our
language when we say jokingly Im going to kill you or we slaughtered them in
basketball or he just murdered the English language.
Homicide Survivors or Co-Victims
- people who have had their loved ones taken away from them suffer immensely
- the number of co-victims are not recorded by the FBI or other organizations. If they
were to be counted as a victim then the number would increase astronomically.
- an estimated 28 million adults in the united states are said to be suffering from the
tragic loss of a loved one.
- people who lose a loved one through a murder claim to have more suffering than
those who lose their loved one in a surprise accident such as a car crash. They must
contend with the fact that someone else wilfully took their life.
- these people feel that the press invades their privacy when dealing with the murder
- they also have to contend with the anger associated towards the person who killed
their loved one. - one homicide survivor lost his one and claimed it felt like a nuclear bomb going off in
- a study shows that murder has a harsher impact on the co-victims than suicide or
- trauma includes loss of appetite, headache, sleep deprivation and gastrointestinal
- interpersonal relationships are also often affected as sometimes the survivors feel that
they are alone dealing with what they are going through so they begin to isolate
themselves. Its also not uncommon for others to feel uncomfortable around these
- many suffer from a complicated bereavement which means they cannot reconcile
their loss. There is no cure for this... antidepressants are proven to not reduce the pain.
Survivors and the Criminal Justice System
- crimes in Canada and the US are viewed as crimes against the state, not against an
- homicide survivors are often first notified about the investigation because they are
thought out to be suspects by the police force. The police are often thought of to be
insensitive, especially when it comes to the media
- co-victims are not taken into account by judges when it comes to prosecuting the
- homicide survivors feel a lack of control and a sense of helplessness when there is
plea bargaining, reduced sentences or a non-guilty verdict given.
- studies indicate that homicide survivors who went through a trial (no matter the
verdict) still had more depression than those whose cases were unsolved.
- the National Organization for Victim Assistance was founded in 1975
- there are many victim assistance programs that provide homicide survivors with victim
impact statements, knowledge on compensation, therapy, etc.
The Cost of Homicide, Literally
- The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates that the cost of homicide in 2001 in
Australia was $930 million.
- this is based on Australias 589 homicides in 2001... the US had 13 752.
- assuming the cost per homicide was the same in the US as Australia, the US would
have $22 billion. This figure, however, is less than what was paid out to the victims of
the 9/11 attacks, which totalled $38 billion.
- these figures do not factor in the cost for the victims metal and emotional health
support, nor towards the victims dependents The Murderers Family
- Ironically, the offenders family deals with many of the same issues that the homicide
victims family deals with.
- both experience emotional stress, stigmatization, excessive media coverage, income
loss, and the loss of a loved one.
- although the loss is not the same as losing someone to a murder, they lose their loved
one to incarceration and many times, suicide.
- they may also experience anger and a sense of betrayal
- media attention is also a huge issue when it comes to stress. Most families of a
murder often feel like their lives have no privacy.
- the realization that someone in your family has taken the life of another human being
is a hard thing to deal with. Some people go into denial and become severely
- unlike co-victims, organizations to support you and the family are harder to find. It is
likely these groups are rare to exist due to the stigmatization that comes along with the
- there are groups that these people turn to that involve dealing with the incarceration
of a loved one.
Criminal Justice Personnel and Reporters
- law enforcement is a difficult career because of what they are exposed to on a daily
-it is proven that homicide investigators have higher stress levels and this is assumed to
be because of the horrific sites they are exposed to, as well as they take on a personal
responsibility to solve these cases and because of the extent they are involved in it. If
the case isnt solved they often blame themselves and feel guilty.
- even people involved with the court system have these feelings. Prosecutors take it
upon themselves to believe what they feel is the truth. If they are wrong then serious
decisions can be made that have extreme effects on other people.
- defence attorneys are also known to suffer psychological effects because of the reality
they may be helping to free murders.
1. Abductions from the Womb: Caesarean Section Murder a New
Category of Homicide
By: Dr. Marlene Dalley, PhD