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The Crime of Homicide: History and Laws


Homicide, which can be described as the act of a human being killing another, is a crime that is recognized all over the world. The crime is a common one since many people fall victim every day. Homicide can be of different types depending on the circumstances surrounding the event and the mindset of the offender. Criminal homicide happens when the offender has a criminal intent, with the motive being to harm the victim (Muftić, & Hunt, 2013). The accepted form of homicide is capital punishment where certain criminals are punished by death due to the seriousness of the offence they committed.

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The victims of homicide have been described in several studies. However, they vary from one region to the other, with studies describing the theories that relate to homicide in different parts of the world. This victimology report looks at the profile of the homicide victims by considering their history, the theories described in class, and the current and proposed state laws on homicide.

A Short History of the Victims of the Crime

The victims of homicide have characteristics that vary from one place to the other. Different parts of the world have special characteristics attributable to the victims. For example, in the United States, the victims of homicide are mainly male (Panczak, Geissbühler, Zwahlen, Killias, Tal, & Egger, 2013), with the proportion of males being approximately 72%. This figure often corresponds to results of violent crimes (Sharpe & Boyas, 2011). The reason why males are more predisposed to homicide can be attributed to their involvement in violence and the traditional cultural attribute of being the stronger and superior sex (Sharpe, & Boyas, 2011). In any attack, the male victims are susceptible to homicide because they are more likely to provide security.

These victims of homicide are mainly between the ages of 20 and 45 years since this age comprises the most active people (Bridges, & Tankersley, 2010). In other parts of the world such as South America, the victims of homicide are more likely to be middle-aged males who are involved in illegal drug trade (Chan, Heide, & Myers, 2013; Overshott, Rodway, Roscoe, Flynn, Hunt, Swinson et al., 2012; Pierce, & Kuhns, 2012). The female victims are more likely to be involved in homicide in the domestic setting, with the offenders being people known to them such as their spouses. The female victims are also likely to be young and married, with most of them living alone or with the husband and children.

In case of murder, the victims are likely to be unknown to their attackers, with most of these forms of homicide taking place in violent crimes. The victims are also likely to be black and living in major cities in the US and other parts of the world (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). In the United States, where the black population makes up 13% of the total population, the black people contribute to approximately half of all the offenders and victims of homicide (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). The victims of homicide are mainly unemployed, with those who are employed earning a meager salary and/or having to work from job to job. Most of them are not in permanent employment. Rather, they are of low socioeconomic status (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). There are few incidents of individuals from high social economic status being involved in homicide. In most of the cases, this group contributes mainly to the offenders.

The victims of homicide are located in big cities, with most of them being victims of violent crime and gang-related activities. The reasons behind the black population being involved in homicide include gang activities, with the gang members and innocent civilians being the main affected people. In cases of infanticide, victims are infants while the offenders are the people who are related to them in one way or the other. The victims of infanticide are mainly between the ages of 1 month to 1 year, with the main reason being negligence on the part of their parents. The relatives of homicide victims have often been given the responsibility of taking care of their belongings and managing any court cases where the state provides legal advice.


Researchers have described a variety of theories pertaining to homicide in relation to victimology. The theories describe how the victims of the crime respond the way they do, with other theorists describing the motives of the assailants in the crime and their intentions. Theories are important in delineating how the survivors of homicide and those affected may be treated together with how the crimes may affect them. They also help in preparing the law enforcers to deal with scenes of crime, the witnesses, and families of the deceased individuals. An example of a theory is the theory of evolved homicide adaptations proposed by Joshua Duntley and David Buss (Carruthers, Laurence, & Stitch, 2004).

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In the theory of evolved homicide adaptations, Joshua Duntley and David Buss state that human beings have fallen victims to homicide over many centuries, with the motives varying across cultures. They claim that human beings have killed others over the past “at non-trivial frequencies across cultures” (Carruthers, Laurence, & Stich, 2004, p. 303). The researchers explained the various types of homicide that they investigated including murders and infanticides. The theory proposes that the justification for killing is different in occasions. They describe two different events of people going into war and others killing infants because they had deformities (Carruthers, Laurence, & Stich, 2004). The theory explains the benefits of killing over the costs incurred. The theory states that the different motifs determine the course of the homicide.

The theory describes certain features in homicide such as the input sensitivities, cataloguing mechanisms, and output generators. It suggests that the evolution of homicide was occasioned by the evolution in human character and that human beings have developed special psychological adaptations to homicide (Carruthers, Laurence, & Stich, 2004). The human brain is considered an important aspect in the development of any emotion and motif, with the evolution of homicide taking the normal psychological development of any condition (Regoeczi, & Jarvis, 2013). Homicidal behavior is proposed to be a product of the psychological wellbeing of individuals and the average person who has at one time been considered homicide in one way or the other (Carruthers, Laurence, & Stich, 2004; Zinzow, Rheingold, Byczkiewicz, Saunders, & Kilpatrick, 2011).

Victim Typology

The typology of homicide victims is different in different parts of the world. In the United States, statistics are useful in defining this typology. The most common victims of homicide in the country are black people who constitute more than half of the homicide victims (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). The offenders have also been described as being mainly black and involved in gang violence. In most of the studies that have defined the population of people involved in homicide, the black population has often made up a high proportion. Some of the reasons for this observation can be attributed to the violent nature of the race and its predisposition to crime.

Another major observation is that most of the victims are male, with this sex making up more than half of the population that harbors the main victims of homicide. The female sex is less likely to be affected by homicide compared to the male sex, with the reasons behind this inference being cultural, religious, and biological (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). Men are more active and violent compared to women. The female sex is traditionally spared in any battle because of its perceived weakness (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). In many of incidents where the female sex is the victim to homicide, the reasons are mainly sexual, with the assailants being male. The victims are killed in many of these cases to avoid their identification of the people who are responsible for the sexual offences.

In many parts of the world, the victims of homicide are young and energetic. They are killed away from their places of residence (Abrams, Leon, Tardiff, Marzuk, & Sutherland, 2007). Young people are more energetic and violent compared to the elderly. They are more likely to be found in areas that have a high prevalence of crime. The young people are also more likely to react violently in cases of disagreements, which constitute higher incidents of illegal firearm procession in the young cohort in relation to the elderly (Siegel, Ross, & King, 2013). In cases where the homicide is prevalent, the age distribution also reflects that of areas where the crime is not as prevalent. The usual finding is that more young individuals are involved.

Another finding of the victims of homicide is that more than half of the victims are murdered by people who are known to them, with the intent mainly being criminal (Karch, & Nunn, 2011; Smith, Fowler, & Niolon, 2014). The reasons why the victims are murdered by people known to them include domestic fights and disagreements such as trade differences. In cases where the homicide involves people who do not know each other, the motive for the murder is mainly criminal. Examples are cases where the victims are involved in violent robberies. These victims are killed because they resisted the criminal activities, or were considered a threat by the assailants.

The other type of victims includes those killed by law enforcement agencies and prisoners who are on death sentence. Most of the people killed by police, the military, and other law agencies are criminals who are considered a threat to the national security, to themselves, or to others (Kercher, Swedler, Pollack, & Webster, 2013). Most of them are killed in the process of carrying out violent activities, with the most common of the activities being violent robberies. The main reason why prisoners get the death sentence is murder. Most of these victims are violent offenders with a criminal history. This group mainly consists of male offenders, with most of them being black (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009).

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State Laws

The constitution is the main document that protects life and guarantees freedom that every citizen enjoys. Many states have undertaken the formulation of laws that are aimed at protecting life and punishing the criminal homicide offenders. However, few states have enacted legislation for the victims of homicide. The main laws protect the survivors while stating how they should be assisted by the state to take care of the expenses incurred in the burial process and hospital bills (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). Over the past decade, the laws on homicide victims have mainly been based on the unborn victims where the states have sought to define the beginning of life and when abortion should be considered illegal and punishable.

One of the acts that have been amended over the last decade is the Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). The state of Pennsylvania had to adopt a series of changes to the Act to allow room for the definition of the beginning of life, hence defining the age at which abortion can be defined as murder (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009). There have been many debates on the issue of when abortion begins. These debates have led to alterations in the state laws over the past decade. There have also been changes to the Act to allow the definition of the rights of the unborn child (Toliver, & Coyne, 2009).

The future proposed legislation will need to define the support that can be given to mothers that have experienced loss of children while they are still in the uterus. In many of the states around the United States, the law is unclear as to who can decide on the legality of abortion (Sharpe, & Boyas, 2011). In the military justice system, an aviator was charged under the unborn Victims of Violence Act for allegedly inducing abortion in his girlfriend by placing misoprostol in the food of the woman. The drug led to the loss of the pregnancy. The aviator was charged in court for murder as per the conditions of this Act. However, the argument was that the charges were against his constitutional rights and that he was being discriminated based on sex since the girlfriend was legally allowed to procure the abortion while he was not.

Therefore, there is a need for the different states to establish their independent laws to ensure that the victims of homicide get justice and that the laws are not in contravention of the constitution. There is also need to have laws put in place to ensure that the victims of homicide are protected and the survivors are compensated based on the circumstances that led to the murders. The funeral services and fees for the victims of homicide need to be catered for by the state where families are unable to take care of them. Therefore, there is the need to put a special legislation that allows the compensation of families affected by the crime of homicide (Siegel, Ross, & King, 2013). Over the last few decades, the number of unidentified victims of homicide has been increasing. These victims have neither dependents nor survivors to take care of them. Therefore, the different states need to ensure the legislation of laws dealing with such victims and how their welfare should be dealt with.

Federal Laws

The federal laws are supreme in the US and in many parts of the world because of decades of policies on the international and local front. The federal government has taken up the role of the protector of the rights of the citizens as entrenched in the constitution. The supremacy of the constitution is emphasized in the federal legislation that has come into effect in the past decade. In relation to the victims of homicide, only few federal laws have been legislated to define how these victims and their families should be treated (Siegel, Ross, & King, 2013). The laws are mainly focused on the unborn child just like in the state laws. They have been applied in all states.

An example of a federal law that has been legislated in the last decade is Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA) that was previously described (Royston, 2014). This legislation came into effect in 2004 to define the various crimes that the unborn children should be protected from and the punishments that offenders face. The law was in line with the constitution of the US that spells out the basic freedoms that the citizens should enjoy. However, the basic function that the law played was the description of when life begins, and hence when mothers and other individuals who procure illegal abortions or kill fetuses may be prosecuted (Royston, 2014).

There are other federal laws that have come into effect that allow the prosecution of the offenders in homicide cases. Despite the laws punishing the offenders, the victims have not had any significant legislation to guide how they are treated and/or any financial help that they should get. A proposal is that there is the need to develop legislation to provide for security, financial stability, and social support for the victims. Most of the survivors of homicide cases have psychological challenges. The health sector is the only branch of government that is concerned with their welfare. Legislation should be crafted to ensure that the victims have access to services and funds to allow them to get psychological support and counseling (Jaffe, Dawson, & Campbell, 2013).

Media and Social Media Impact on Victims

The media platforms, especially the social media, have special impacts on the victims of homicide. One way in which the media affects the victims of homicide is through the airing of events of homicide (Gruenewald, Chermak, & Pizarro, 2013). Victims of homicide and mainly the survivors and their families try to forget the incidents that led to the loss of their loved ones and the consequences that followed. However, the media keeps replaying the images of these events and reminds people of the experiences. The repetition of events of a homicide crime prolongs the psychological healing process of the victims mentioned above, hence inhibiting their reintegration into the society (Morrall, Hazelton, & Shackleton, 2011).

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The media also provides information regarding the incidents of homicide as they occur. The privacy of these victims is violated. They end up experiencing psychiatric problems associated with this problem. The media also exposes these victims because of violation of their privacy. They have to stay indoors to prevent stigmatization from their neighbors or get inappropriate attention in the streets (Martone, Mulvey, Yang, Nemoianu, Shugarman, & Soliman, 2013). The images that the media displays of homicide victims are also a reminder of the events that led to their loss. They continue to affect them long after they have recovered from these events.

The media is a source of information in many crime scenes. However, in many instances, the media has been involved in the spreading of wrongful information regarding the victims of homicide (Papachristos, & Wildeman, 2014). An example is where the media reports the death of a victim while the victim may be alive in some cases. The media may also try to state the motive of the assailants in any criminal homicides. However, this move may be wrong in some instances. Although the media has often apologized for any misinformation that is provided, the damage is habitually beyond repair or takes long to heal for most of the victims (Royston, 2014).

The social media has grown considerably over the past few years, with many subscribers joining the different social sites (Royston, 2014). News and information spread fast on the social media. Thousands of people can share a story within minutes. However, social media is a very big source of misinformation, with people often being involved in the spreading of wrong information (Royston, 2014). For the victims of homicide, the social media is involved in the propagation of wrong information about them. They also expose the victims to unnecessary publicity. This move exposes them to vulnerabilities. Just like in other forms of media, the patients take longer to recover.

The social media also affects victims of homicide in that the images of the victims are circulated within a matter of minutes to thousands of subscribers. Few regulations and limitations affect the social media. As a result, it is difficult to control the content that is shared between the subscribers (Royston, 2014). The homicide victims are exposed to uncontrolled victimization on the social sites, with some of the social site users often making statements that are disrespectful to these victims. Some of the social site subscribers also make fun of the victims, hence making them feel guilty of the crime. This situation affects their self-esteem.

Improvements to Victim Services

Improvements to the services rendered to the victims of the crime of homicide are possible in the local areas. One important improvement is financial support for the survivors. Over the past, the survivors in any homicide attempt have had to make personal contributions to the burial and other services for the deceased individuals. The state needs to make special arrangements with the families of victims to ensure that they are financed to take care of the remains of the victims and/or ensure that families are not strained. One way that this goal can be realized is through the creation of a special fund for the victims of homicide administered by a government official or any other qualified individual.

Another improvement is needed in the way the media handles the victims of homicide. The state should introduce a law that limits the spreading of information before approval by the victims and their participation and cooperation with the media. There is also limited psychological support that is being offered to the victims of homicide. This support is only offered by the health institutions upon the request of the victims (Kirchengast, 2011). The state needs to ensure that there are counseling sessions for the victims of homicide and the survivors. This strategy should involve the religious institutions. Where the survivors are reluctant to participate in the counseling sessions at these institutions’ setup, there should be people ready to take them through the counseling sessions at the places of their choice.

Another necessary change is the introduction of special education to educate the public on how to prevent the different types of homicides. This special education will go a long way in reducing the number of victims of homicide in the area while providing a basis for the treatment of the individuals affected by the crime. The police should also participate more in preventive measures such as the provision of security to the locals in areas that are prone to the crime. There is also need to ensure that the assailants are brought to book soon after the incidents take place. This measure will ensure that the victims recover sooner because of the assured justice.

There are few services to the victims of homicide in the area. They have to wait for a long time before they are served. More staff members should be availed at different levels to ensure that the right services are provided to these victims in the area. The law enforcement agencies, especially the police officers, need to train some of their staff people to deal with the issues affecting the victims of homicide. This training will ensure that more personnel are equipped to handle the victims of homicide and hence reduce the burden on other institutions, which are forced to handle large numbers of victims.

Summary and Pertinent Points

In research on the victims of homicide, the major issues that proved to be important include the determination of when life begins. The two laws discussed pertained to this matter, although they had different opinions as to when life begins. This discussion is important because it sets the age at which the murder of a fetus may be considered a break of the law. In the US, abortion is legal in special circumstances. The mother has a role to play in determining whether she will have the abortion or not. However, the law is quiet on the role of the fathers in determining the point at which abortion may be carried out, and whether they have any part to play in the abortion.

Because women are allowed to abort, with men being prohibited to induce it without consulting, this brings about the issue of discrimination based on sex. Therefore, the law is against the virtues in the constitution that protect the sexes against any form of discrimination. The law should be clear by stating that abortion is illegal whether procured by a female patient or one who is forced to do so by the man. Another pertinent issue is the role that is played by the media in the rehabilitation of victims and their education. As previously discussed, the media platforms can be a source of poor outcome for the victims of homicide due to the stigmatization that results from the messages that they spread. However, this information tool can be used as an effective tool to rehabilitate the victims of homicide through the development of programs to educate the public on homicide.

Another pertinent issue that came during the research is the role played by the legal killings in the name of capital punishment. The practice should be banned, with alternative means of administering punishment to offenders being sought because the decision to take life is not a preserve of any individual. The punishment is also responsible for causing trauma to the relatives of the victims. Offenders and homicide suspects and those convicted should be punished through life punishment.


In conclusion, the research project describes the crime of homicide, which is the illegal killing of a human being by another. It establishes that the majority of the victims and their assailants are likely to be middle aged, black, and male. The reasons behind the characteristics are given in the paper, with the data available referring to the United States. The victims are also more likely to be from the big cities, with more than half of them being harmed by persons known to them. The essay describes one of the theories that are relevant in the discussion of the care of victims of homicide. There are special federal and state laws that define the services offered to the victims of homicide. However, few of them have come into effect over the last decade. Most are focused on the punishment of the offenders. The media is also described as playing a significant role in the recovery of victims and survivors of homicide. The proposed changes include the introduction of a special fund to take care of the services needed by the victims and their family, provision of psychological support, and the local media playing positive roles.

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