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February 26, 2023

"Defining the Victim in the Law of Homicide"

The title of this post is the title of this new book chapter now available via SSRN authored by Stefanie Bock and Stuart P. Green. Here is its abstract:

This chapter focuses on five main issues related to the question of who or what can be a “victim” of homicide.  We argue as follows:

First, that homicide law should protect all living members of the human species regardless of their individual characteristics, abilities, achievements, or social status; though we recognize that, as technology and social norms continue to develop, this anthropocentric approach of homicide offences should potentially be supplemented by specialized norms providing for the adequate protection of animals and artificially intelligent beings. 

Second, that differentiations in grading or sentencing based on the age, gender, or occupation of the victim are unwarranted.

Third, that homicide law should be limited to cases in which the victim has been born at the time the death-causing injury was inflicted and that other cases, involving fetuses that are injured by hostile third parties and then die (whether in utero or after birth) should be prosecuted, if at all, under the separate rubric of “feticide.”

Fourth, that homicide law should be concerned exclusively with the killing of “others,” as opposed to “self” and that suicide therefore should not be a criminal offence; though we concede that where there is a risk that a person is being pressured to commit suicide or is doing so in error, it may be appropriate to prosecute for assistance to, or incitement of, suicide or indirect perpetration of homicide.

Fifth, that in determining whether a victim should be regarded as “already dead” and therefore beyond the scope of homicide law, we should apply a set of criteria that is consistent with that applied in determining the beginning of life (viz, the irreversible cessation of brain stem function or the irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory function).

February 26, 2023 at 11:50 AM | Permalink


"The term “person” would seem to be broader in the sense that it is not necessarily linked to species membership, but could potentially apply, and in many contexts does apply, to legal constructs such as corporations, partnerships, governments, and NGOs. It could also potentially apply to living things that do not have human DNA, such as certain kinds of animals, and artificially intelligent beings."


Posted by: shg | Feb 26, 2023 1:24:16 PM

For the second time in a month, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Greenfield. It's simply mystifying how academics get away with publishing this stuff.

You wanna "define" the victim of homicide? Easy. Go down to the morgue.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 26, 2023 3:28:55 PM



Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 26, 2023 4:55:09 PM

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