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NCJ Number: 203314 Find in a Library
Title: Cost of Lost Intimacy: The Effect of Relationship State on Criminal Justice Decisionmaking
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:43  Issue:4  Dated:Autumn 2003  Pages:689-709
Author(s): Myrna Dawson
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 21
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: In order to test various theoretical perspectives that predict defendants who victimize intimate partners from whom they are estranged ("separation" killings) will be punished by the criminal justice system more severely than defendants who victimize current partners ("intact" killings), this study examined the verdicts and sentences given in 144 cases of intimate femicide that occurred in Toronto, Canada.
Abstract: Socio-legal and feminist theorists have argued that the severity of the law's sanctions varies inversely with the relational distance (degree of intimacy) between victims and defendants. This study tested this argument by examining the severity of verdicts and sentences in 144 intimate femicides that occurred in Toronto, Ontario, from 1974 to 1996. The two measures used to determine degree of punishment were severity of conviction and sentence. A dichotomous variable was used to determine whether a defendant was convicted of murder, including first or second degree, or of a less serious charge, primarily manslaughter. A second outcome measure focused on the length of sentence or term of imprisonment imposed before a defendant was eligible for parole. The key independent variable was the status of the relationship between the offender and victim. "Separation" killings were defined as those in which the victim had already ended the relationship with her male intimate partner, or was in the process of doing so when the killing occurred. "Intact" killings were those that involved victims and defendants who still shared an intimate relationship at the time of the killing. Twenty-eight percent of the cases examined were classified as "separation" killings. Control variables were used for defendant and incident characteristics as well as legal or case-processing factors that previous research has shown to be associated with relationship state and court outcomes in cases of violent crime. The findings support the tested theory, in that defendants who were found to have killed estranged partners were treated more harshly than those defendants who killed current partners. Possible explanations for these findings are offered for subjects of future research. These explanations include perception of greater victim responsibility in "intact" relationships and the patriarchal legacy of offering more protection to male defendants who retain the status of "husband" in relation to their victims. 4 tables and 76 references
Main Term(s): Victim-offender relationships
Index Term(s): Canada; Domestic assault; Domestic relations; Female victims; Foreign courts; Foreign sentencing
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