Female Victims Case Study

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Furthermore, female murder fatalities may be alleged as engaging in less disreputable or contributing conduct associated with their own victimization compared with male victims (Baumer, Messner, and Felson 290; Farrell and Swigert 352; Sundby 347). Similarly, sexual assault is an aggravating factor both statutorily and de facto as a contemporaneous felony for a felony-murder charge in most jurisdictions (Snell). Stauffer et al find that juries are more likely to impose death sentences in homicides involving rape. Although rare Pierce and Radelet forty-two report that less than two percent of first-degree murder convictions in their 10-year Illinois sample included a contemporaneous sexual assault, perceptions about the particular heinousness…show more content…
They show that the apparent independent effects of victim race and gender on death sentences in Ohio actually are a product of the strong association between one victim race–gender group of cases and the imposition of a death sentence. The comparison of specific race–gender victim combinations reveals that white female victim cases are the only victim race–gender combination in which the odds of receiving a death sentence are significantly different from any other reference group (i.e., white male, black female, or black male victims). They argue that the observed “white female effect” is consistent with the historically increased concern and ruthless response to the victimization of white females in American culture (Holcomb, Williams, and Demuth 886). The perceived victimization of white females, especially by nonwhite offenders, has considerable symbolic power in the United States and has been used to support a variety of social and political goals (Langum; Morgan 55). Perhaps related to this cultural history, white females may be perceived as the group most in need of protection from violence and least likely to be responsible for their victimization. Conversely, homicides with other victim groups may affect the focal concerns of decision makers in a manner that encourages a more lenient response compared with the victimization of white females. Unlike black females and males in general, for whom violence may be perceived as a more familiar experience (Hawkins 723); Spohn, violence against white females may represent a more serious threat because of the harm to perceived “innocent” victims - a major factor in capital jury decision making (Sundby
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