A Theoretical Perspective of Crime – Homicide

Final Project Instructions

For this project you will write about a category of criminal activity you studied and found most compelling during the course of this class. In general, your assignment is to examine this criminal activity, its theoretical perspectives, and the underlying factors in an effort to explain the behavior and reduce recidivism in the future. Use your critical thinking and research skills to compose a paper that demonstrates what you have learned in this course.

Choose a category of crime from the range of criminal activities you studied this semester, such as homicide, economic/white collar crime, family violence, school/workplace violence, sexual assault, terrorism, etc. Select a specific individual or group that perpetrated this type of crime

Project Outline

  1. Define and describe the category of crime, its characteristics, typical offenders, and the theoretical perspectives attributed to it.
  2. Identify and describe your chosen individual or group that perpetrated this type of crime.
  3. Explain the perpetrator/s background. For example:
    • If an individual, explain where they were born, their family structure, the socioeconomic conditions, education, their life events that led up to the criminal act, etc.
    • If a group of individuals or political faction, explain how and why the group was formed, when they were active, where they were located, how they were organized, etc.
  4.  If you have identified a specific exemplary incident describe the crime. Explain what happened, when it happened, where it happened, the conditions that led up to the crime (s), what if any gain the perpetrator realized as a result of the crime etc.
  5. Explain the factors or predictors that may have influenced this criminal behavior such as, but not limited to:
    • Risk factors (as outlined in your textbook)
    • Psychological disorders
    • Mental illness
    • Substance abuse
    • Motivations
    • Political ideologies
  6. Explain whether the offender (s) were able to follow through with the crime (s).
    • If they were able to, how did they achieve it? Over what time period?
    • If not, why not?
  7. Identify and describe the legal, corrective, and/or rehabilitative action that is appropriately directed to perpetrators of this criminal activity. Is there evidence (or do you believe) the punishment and or treatment programs can be effective in reducing recidivism?
  8. Describe and evaluate any associated outcomes/impact emanating from this criminal activity or specific incident, such as increased social awareness, change in policy or laws, negative backlash or unintended effects, etc.
  9. Concluding statement

A Theoretical Perspective of Crime – Homicide

Definition and Description of Homicide

Homicide refers to any human being killing by another human being that is not excusable or justifiable. Criminal homicide might be regarded as killing by accident or intentional killing or killing that result from criminal negligence based on circumstances surrounding the killing and the killer state of mind.  Criminal homicides can be classified into two different forms which include manslaughter and murder.

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Murder is regarded as unexcused, unjustified killing of a human being by another with malevolence aforethought. Manslaughter refers to unexcused, unjustified killing of one human being by another with no malevolence aforethought. Malevolence aforethought refers to the state of mind that distinguishes manslaughters from murders. Murder with intent to kill is regarded as first degree murder while second degree murder refers to killings with intent to cause serious injury (Brookman, 2010).

Chosen Group

The homicide crime was committed by a young teenage aged 16 Dawson, against his own grandmother.

Dawson Background

Dawson born of black American parents was the only a child of his parents. They parents separated when Dawson was eight due to irreconcilable differences. During his growth, Dawson experienced violence between his mother and father and he was once hit by his father while trying to defend his mother. The mother won the child custody after the separation. However, she was not able to handle the baby and her demanding job which was considerably poorly paid. She decided to take Dawson to her mother; a retired teacher, who was only living with her house help after the death of her husband. Dawson thus grew under the care of his grandmother. Although Dawson mother would visit frequently, the situation changed when she remarried when Dawson was only 10 and divorced again after one year. After the second divorce, Dawson mother stopped visiting as frequent as she used to. Her life also changed. She started taking drugs and binge drinking. His father had also taken into alcoholism and he never cared about anything. Dawson thus felt as a rejected child who only had his grandmother to depend on.

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According to his statement, he wished his grandmother would die so as his parents could take their responsibilities of raising him. But that too did not happen. His performance was poor at school and he was always being reprimanded by teachers due to his deteriorating behaviors.  He also felt his granny was struggling to pay the school fees and to feed him. He thus decided to drop out of school silently at the onset of his 16th birthday. He then joined a gang of boys, who seemed to understand his problems, since according to him, no one else did. The group made it easier for him to fun and forgets his troubles. But his granny was so determined to stop him from seeing the gang, especially after she was informed that the boy does not attend the school anymore.  This must have irritated Dawson to the point of considering ending the problem by committing the murder.

Specific Exemplary Incident Describing the Crime

Dawson was living with his grandmother at the time of the crime. In the fateful night, he wanted to go out but the grandmother blocked him. He ran back to his room and locked the door.  He later sneaked out of his room to his grandmother’s room in the middle of the night, carrying a strong piece of metal. He however changed his mind when he found his grandmother in the peace of her sleep and decided to use her pillow to suffocate her. The lack of enough air awakened her and she struggled for survival. When she overpowered Dawson, the boy picked the piece of the metal rod and hit his grandmother on the head three times before she was overpowered and fell down. This commotion woke the house help who was sleeping in in the basement. Dawson managed to flee the crime scene after the act back to his room. The house help called an ambulance, though the granny was pronounced dead upon arrival.

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The main explanation that can be given to explain the crime would be psychological instability. Dawson had a rough childhood with experience of violence and deprived parental love. The desire to have what he could not get may have initiated anger. In an attempt to attract his parents’ attention, Dawson developed behavioral disorder which was never resolved. His constant thought of his grandmother as the reason he was rejected or abandoned by his parents, and irritation of her interference with his life must have provoked him to end the problem. The inner aggression may have been stirred every time Dawson reflected on his life, this time resulting to impulsive reaction. Dawson may also have been introduced into drugs which distorted his reasoning and aggravated the urge to act irrationally.  Dawson main gain would be his freedom and maybe his parents’ attention after the death of his grandmother who was taking care of him.

Factors that could have resulted to This Crime

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that attributed to Dawson criminal act. Some of these risk factors included his age and gender. According to Bookman (2010), homicide is a crime dominated by males, especially young male. More than 90% of homicide offenders are male. Another main risk factor is ethnicity. According to research, Asian and black persons are over-represented as homicide offenders in the United States prisons. Blacks account for 12% of homicide offenders in the US prisons. Another main risk factor is socioeconomic and education. Dawson came from a broken family characterized by drug used, violence and lack of parental love. As a result, he was adopted by his grandmother who would compensate for his parents’ failure to raise him. His poor background somehow influenced his learning ability, making it hard for him to concentrate and focus on his studies. Poor social status is likely to result to distress, which would influence individual learning ability. In addition, lack and desire for parental attention and attachment initiated behavioral problems, which negatively influence child’s social life and academic performance. The uncertainties created by poor social status initiates anxiety and poor state of mind, bitterness and aggression. The other main risk factor was possibility of using drugs. It is not clear of how Dawson used to fun with his friends. However, the possibility of using drugs could have also increased crime risk factors (Bookman, 2010).  

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Psychological and Behavioral Disorders

There are a number of theories that can be used of explain the behavior behind homicide offenders or crimes. Some of the theories that can be used to explain homicide crime include behavioral theories. One of the main predisposition behavioral features of murder crime is being violent, aggressive and impulsive mostly featured among young people at teen age. According to behavior theory, all human behavior is learnt via social environment interaction. According to theorist, individuals are not born with disposition of violence, but they learn to act and think violently through their daily experience. Individual living in violent environment learn to model their neighbors aggressive behaviors (Ontario, 2016). Dawson early exposure to violence may have contributed to his actions. In addition, violent behavior can be facilitated by a stressful stimulus or event such as assault, challenge or threat which increases arousal, aggressive techniques or skills learnt via observation, a believe the violence or aggression has social reward for instance earning praise, and a value system which tolerates  violent acts in specific social contact.  The confrontation between Dawson and his grandmother may have aroused his anger. A reflection on his life may have acted as stressful stimuli, invoking the desire to kill.

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According to cognitive development theories, human develop in a logical and systematic ways. During the growth different people may acquire different understanding of laws. Some may avoid violent crime for the fear of the consequences while other may avoid violent crimes due to moral implications or for sympathizing and recognizing the fundamental rights of other people. Individual with high degree of moral reasoning are less likely to engage in violence and crime, compared to people who obey the law to avoid punishment. In this case, Dawson did not seem to understand the moral implication of his act. His moral reasoning must have been poorly developed, especially since in his opinion, his parent did not have the moral reasoning of caring for him. After feeling rejected and abandoned, it would be unlikely for him to develop sympathy or consider the moral implications (Ontario, 2016).

 Another aspect used to explain homicide crime is personality-violence relation. Personality is perceived as stable patterns of actions, thoughts or behaviors which differentiate an individual from others.  According to theorists, some forms of personality are more disposed to criminal behaviors (Ontario, 2016).  For instance, violence is associated with personality traits that include suspicion, self-assertiveness, narcissism, defiance, and extroversion.  Violent behaviors are also associated to traits that include hostility, jealousy, egoism, spitefulness, self-centeredness, and lack of empathy for or indifference to others.  Criminals are also said to lack perseverance and ambition, and also find it hard to handle their impulses and tempers.  Crime prone youths are also found to be hostile, impulsive, quick to act against threats, paranoid and aggressive.  They also feel irritable, anxious and stresses in the face of hostile social condition. Dawson seemed to have been experiencing all this.

Dynamic and Social Theories Explaining

There are also a number of theories that explain causes homicide offenders behaviors.  Some of these theories are dynamic theories and static theories.   According to these static theories, the persistent criminal antisocial behavioral pattern can be explained by specific static traits that can be traced back to the person’s early childhood.  The presence of traits that include problematic family background, male gender and masculinity, psychopathic personality, and lack of self-control, will result a manifestation of their fate to crime at their early age (Liem, 2013).  Dawson violent early childhood, problematic family background and other psychological conditions that emanate from his situation may have contributed to development of antisocial behavioral conditions that could have pushed him into committing the crime. According to static theory, once an individual is involved in criminal behavior, the person has a high possibility of being a criminal forever. This demonstrates a great that Dawson has a high possibility of reoffending in the future.

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Dynamic theories hypothesize that change in life situations influence criminal behavior directly. This means age has great effect on individual ability to commit crimes since age changes come great changes in individual life. An example of dynamic theories is the life course theories. According to these theories, there is a change of criminal behaviors as change of important events in life takes place. According to life-course research parental and marital attachment and stability in job are essentially associated to modification in criminal behaviors (Liem, 2013).  Dawson had experienced serious life events which included separation with his parents, total rejection after his mother stopped visiting and also body and hormonal changes as a result of adolescence.  These major life changes could have molded change of his feelings, behaviors and life perceptions at different magnitudes, resulting to who he is today. Dropping out of school was another major change. Dawson felt detached from his parents, and as a matter of fact, he has never developed attachment with his grandmother and instead he hated her and blamed her for taking his responsibility rather than permitting him to be raised by his mother.

Substance Abuse

It was highly suspected that Dawson was using drugs, especially after being associated with the gang for more than two weeks.  Although it is not clear on when he started taking drugs, the immediate assessment of Dawson after arrest demonstrated high marijuana content in his blood. This could have highly influenced his behaviors and maybe distorted rational thinking making forcing him to commit crime.

Motivations

Dawson’s action could have been motivated by a number of factors. These included his hatred for his grandmother after blaming him for denying him his relation with his parents. He felt that with absence of his grandmother, his parents could have had no option but to raise him themselves. Another motivation was his gang. After joining the gang, Dawson felt some sense of satisfaction and self-fulfillment than before. The fear of losing that feeling might have motivated him to eliminate his grandmother, who acted as a barrier to access the joy of being with people who understood him.  

Whether Offender was Able to Follow Up

The act happened in the offenders’ house. He managed to remain in his room by effectively avoiding the crime scene.  He did not go back go to pick the metal rod nor did he go to collect any other evidence he may have left behind. The fear of being caught or the trauma waves sent by the act may have prevented him from revisiting the crime scene. The interrogation by the police added to his fear and tried as much as possible to avoid the room. He did not go to see his grandmother’s body in the mortuary and neither did he go to view her body during the burial. His weird reaction which seems like mental trauma and guilt are some of the thing that prompted his cousin to dig deep, forcing him to confess.

Identification and Description of Legal and Rehabilitative Action

Dawson was arrested after his confession. He was charged with first degree murder and was supposed to take plea in a juvenile court, but later transferred to adult court. Before taking plea, the judge authorized for mental assessment. This assessment indicated that Dawson was not in his right mind while committing the crime. He was experiencing mild personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and drug use. The assessment data was supported by his life history which was characterized by aspects that would impact his psychological well-being. He was thus referred to inpatient rehabilitation center under justice system for mental condition to appoint that the forensic psychiatrist would be certain of his inability to cause harm to the society after his release. The rehabilitation involved the employment of cognitive behavioral therapy CBA to handle PTSD and ADHD integrated with a trauma-focused emotional regulation intervention (Young, Greer & Church, 2017). He was also provided with drug use therapy. Other intervention measures include family therapy in an attempt to bring the family together to reduce cases of recidivism. Other correction measures included engaging Dawson into craft related training as a way to empower him financially once released back to the society. The who process took about six years before Dawson was released back to the community through parole, with condition of not associating with any gang and living a crime free and drug free life. The parole terms also included visiting his parole officer after every two weeks for a period of two years.

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 The program focuses on addressing the underlying issues that forced Dawson into committing crime. They were anticipated to be effective in addressing his unaddressed psychological issues, drug use issues and family relation issues. It was expected that, eliminating the underlying issues would help in eliminating the problem.  The chances of recidivism are highly explained by various theories.  According to social learning theory, recidivism is influenced by the primary variables which influence first criminal behavior for instance differential imitation and differential association. According to researches assessing this theory, gang-affiliated homicide juvenile offenders were more probable to reoffend than juveniles without gang-affiliation (Liem, 2013). Thus, with elimination of the initial variables, and elimination of chances to regroup with gang, the techniques were highly viable in eliminating recidivism. Another theory used to explain recidivism among homicide offenders is developmental theory. Instead of centering on reasons for recidivism, developmental theory focuses on the reasons for abstaining from criminal related behaviors. According to the theory, desistance is a usual and anticipated behavior in the lifespan. The theory postulates that violent delinquents will diminish or even end completely as individual identity change (Liem, 2013). The intervention measures employed to rehabilitate Dawson play a great role in changing his identity. Unlike when his behaviors were controlled by psychological disorder, recovery from these disorders and age advancement by the time of release has played a great role in changing his identity. The decline and peak of psychological and biological aspects that include psychological drive, physical energy and strength, coincide with decline and peak of general deviant behavior (Liem, 2013).  This means that homicide offenders that are older or well treated during the release time would be less probable to reoffend. This demonstrating that Dawson may be less likely to offender after his parole is over.

  Description and Evaluation of any Related Outcome or Impact Emanating from the Criminal Activity

The case added to the statistics on juvenile offenders as results of many factors including drug use, peer pressure and behavioral issues. This case may have initiated initiation and development of anti-drug campaign among youths. This may also have provoked the recent anti-drug policy that fight drug use and consider drug use as a crime in the United States.  

Conclusion

Juvenile homicide among family members is becoming a popular problem in our society. Although these problems have in past been blamed on drugs, there are other underlying factors that are deeper, especially among children from broken families. More may need to be done to assist such children to heal from past trauma and to focus on life like other children without thinking of how disadvantaged they are. Parents may need to sacrifice more for the sake of their children’s psychological wellbeing. Good parenting skills and family therapy may need to be trained among young couples to ensure proper parenting.  This will play a great role in fighting delinquent among adolescence especially from black and Asian families.

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