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Law of Homicide - Conflict Versus Consensus Views

NCJ Number
W Wilbanks
Date Published
16 pages
Both conflict and consensus theories of the derivation of criminal law argue that homicide law has been produced by the dynamics of the theory; yet, neither school has produced sufficient empirical support for its claims, so further research is required to substantiate these theories in relation to homicide.
The consensus view of the derivation of homicide law argues that there is general agreement in society that the unjustified killing of another human being is reprehensible and should be punishable under the law. Consensus theorists, however, have not conducted research to establish that such a consensus exists regarding what is justified and unjustified killing in particular circumstances; for example, is there a consensus on whether or not abortion or the removal of the life support system from a terminally-ill suffering or permanently unconscious person constitute homicide. Conflict theorists, on the other hand, argue that middle and upper-class power groups have criminalized killings generally committed by the underclass street criminal while successfuly combatting legislation that would criminalize deaths from faulty products, hazardous workplaces, and polluted environments. The conflict theory tends to ignore that there are laws against killings derived from corporate negligence. Conflict theorists would do well to determine whether such laws are effective and if not, why not. Further, model laws in such complex areas should be proposed by conflict theorists. Neither the conflict or consensus theorists have done the kind of thoroughgoing research required to give an empirical base to a theory. Research into public attitudes regarding culpability in various hypothesized circumstances creating a death should be pursued. Suggested hypothesized death circumstances are appended, and 23 references are listed.


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